November 09, 2008
On a key 3rd down late in the 3rd quarter of the Giants-Eagles game, Eli Manning was flagged for a penalty for throwing the ball after having crossed the line of scrimmage. The first down completion was overturned and the Giants appeared to have been forced to kick a field goal that would have cut the Eagles lead to one point.
Tom Coughlin challenged the play though, a decision that earned catcalls from both the NBC announcing crew and the group I was watching the game with. Replays clearly showed the ball was well over the line of scrimmage.
Imagine everyone's surprise, then, when referee Walt Coleman announced that the call was overturned. The rule, apparently, dictates that every part of the quarterback's body has to be over the line of scrimmage for a penalty to be called. Since Eli's right foot was still on the line, he is considered behind the line of scrimmage and the pass is legal. To which I say, "WHAT?!"
This makes the tuck rule look like logical. Every spot ruling in football is based on the position of the ball. On a touchdown, the ball only needs to cross the plane of the endzone. The ball carrier can have his toe on the two yard line and it wouldn't matter so long as the any part of the ball is touching the end zone.
Each individual play in a game is also spotted wherever the ball is located when a player is ruled down. And this threshold isn't only subjected to the football. When a player steps out of bounds, he's considered out at the instant one foot touches the line. It doesn't matter where the rest of the body is, all that matter is that if one bit of the toe touches the OB line, that player is out.
But the line of scrimmage rule is written so that quarterbacks have to entirely cross over into another plane in order to be over the line of scrimmage? Compared to the other rules, this one is a complete outlier. It's completely ridiculous.
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