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Holding on intentional safety exposes loophole in rules


In Super Bowl XLVI, the unintended use of an extra man on defense exposed a loophole that the NFL promptly closed. In Super Bowl XLVII, another loophole has been exposed.

But this one will be harder to remedy.

Facing fourth and seven from their own eight and clinging to a five-point lead, the Ravens opted to take an intentional safety. The clock showed 12 seconds at the snap, and the Ravens were able to milk eight of those ticks as punter Sam Koch moved to the back corner of the end zone.

Helping Koch delay as long as possible his exit from the field of play were multiple Ravens players who held 49ers defenders who were trying to get to Koch more quickly. And while a flag for holding inexplicably wasn’t thrown, the outcome would have been no different. Holding in the end zone by the offensive team triggers a safety, and that’s exactly what the Ravens were willing to concede.

Under the circumstances, avoiding the safety was irrelevant. Using as much time as possible was the goal.

The challenge comes from finding an acceptable way to address the situation. For a play that ends in a safety with a holding penalty committed in the end zone, the most obvious solution would be to enforce the penalty on the free kick, moving the ball from the 20 to the 10. But that won’t remedy the fact that a deliberate penalty created a strategic advantage by taking time off the clock.

So perhaps the fairest outcome would be to award the safety, and to restore the clock to the time remaining before the play in question began.

Regardless, it’s a situation that cries out for further study by the Competition Committee.

Until then, here’s NBC officiating consultant Jim Daopoulos talking about that and two other questionable calls from Super Bowl XLVII.