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NFL again defends punt muff non-call in Chicago-Seattle game

Walt Coleman


During Sunday’s game between the Bears and Seahawks, replay review upheld a decision that a ball punted by Chicago had not touched a Seattle player. CBS rules analyst Mike Carey said during the broadcast the NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino explained that there was not clear evidence of the ball touching the Seattle player’s leg.

In the league’s weekly officiating video, Blandino again defends the decision.

After showing two angles that weren’t definitive on whether the ball strikes the player’s leg, the video includes a closer shot of the leg, with the ball clearly changing its trajectory as it passes by the leg of the player. Blandino, however, insists that the video doesn’t show the ball clearly touching the leg.

“Does this ball really jump that far to the right where we think the ball clearly hit his leg?” Blandino asks. “It’s reasonable to assume that it hit his leg. But, again, we cannot make a decision based on the ball changing direction. We have to see clear evidence that the ball absolutely touched his leg.”

That’s fine, but it does seem to be pretty clear that the ball strikes the leg. It may not look clear when played one frame at a time, but at normal speed it’s clear and obvious that the ball moves in a way that happens only if the ball strikes something.

If that’s the standard the league intends to apply to replay review, that’s fine. But we should all remember this standard moving forward, because there inevitably will be occasions when a decision is made not based on what is absolutely clear and patently obvious to the eye, but which is absolutely clear and patently obvious based on the application of common sense.

As the ball was falling and at the moment it passed the player’s leg, it moved in a way it would move only if it touched something other than air. If replay review isn’t going to correct that call, what’s the purpose of even having replay review?