Do We Need More Reviews Or A Rule Change?

I am sure most of you know that the Monday Night Football game between the Seahawks and the Lions ended in controversial fashion.

Long story short: As Calvin Johnson ran to the end zone after catching a pass, Kam Chancellor knocked the ball loose. It landed in the end zone, where K.J. Wright knocked it out of bounds. It should have been a penalty but the line judge didn’t throw his flag.

As Doug Farrar detailed in the above link, Wright did illegally knock the ball out of bounds and it should have been a penalty against Seattle, giving Detroit a new set of downs at the 1-yard line. Farrar tweeted this out:

Tony Corrente’s crew usually does a good job but, like all referees, they don’t get every call right. The question we need to ask is where do we draw the line when it comes to what plays may be reviewed or whether we simply need a rule change.

There could be an argument for automatic review of plays in which there would be a change of possession, but then we get into the problem of making all fourth-down conversions subject to review (a failed fourth-down conversion means a change of possession, after all) or every fumble reviewed to determine who actually recovered it (that is currently not reviewable).

One might suggest changing the rule regarding what happens when the offenses loses a ball before it crosses the end zone, then it rolls out of bounds outside the end zone. Currently, that’s a touchback, but an argument could be made that the ball should instead go back to the offense at the 1-yard line. That’s because in most circumstances, if a fumbled ball goes out of bounds, possession stays with the team who last controlled the ball. The exception, of course, is if the offense or receiving team on a punt or kick return fumbles the ball and it rolls into the end zone, then out of bounds (in which case, it’s a safety).

The flipside to that suggested rule change is that players who celebrate a long touchdown play prematurely and toss the ball aside before crossing the end zone (s Trindon Holliday did a couple years ago, although he hadn’t realized it at first and the official didn’t catch it) aren’t really penalized for their mistakes (after all, their team keeps the ball).

I would suggest allowing automatic reviews when a ball goes out of bounds in the end zone to determine if a player actually swatted the ball to make it go out of bounds and made no attempt to recover it. That, I think, would be enough. Allowing automatic reviews of who recovered fumbles or whether or not a team converted on fourth down puts too many judgment calls into question and opens the door to question others.

What does everyone else think?

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Bob Morris

I'm a sports writer in real life, though I've always focused on smaller communities, but that hasn't stopped me from learning more about some of the ins and outs of the NFL. You can follow me on Twitter @BobMorrisSports if you can put up with updates on the high school sports teams I cover.