As it turns out, the San Diego Chargers have one more item to add to their Tuesday Agony List. Not only did the Chargers blow a 28-7 third-quarter lead against the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football to lose 31-28, but one crucial penalty that allowed the Texans to extend one of their comeback drives should not have happened.
The play happened with 14:53 left in the game, and the Chargers up 28-14. Texans kicker Randy Bullock booted a 37-yard field goal, but Chargers defensive lineman Cam Thomas was flagged for unnecessary roughness when it was ruled that he instigated contact with Texans long-snapper John Weeks. The NFL's new rule is designed to prevent blatant contact to the head and neck area to defenseless snappers on kicks, a new NFL point of emphasis. The penalty took the ball from the San Diego 19-yard line to the nine-yard line and gave the Texans a new set of downs. Matt Schaub threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to tight end Owen Daniels on the next play, and the comeback continued.
But in an interview with the NFL Network's "Total Access" show on Tuesday. NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino revealed that the penalty should not have been called by Scott Green's crew.
"This was not a correct call," Blandino said. "The rule is to protect the snapper on a field goal or extra point from a direct forcible blow to the head or neck area, or with the crown/forehead/hairline parts of the helmet to the body. It was not designed to prohibit any contact with the snapper, which is what happened on this play."
Blandino then walked the viewing audience through the play.
"There's some incidental contact with his left leg to the head/neck area, but that is not a foul. That is legal contact. This should not have been called. It's a judgment call by the umpire, he's looking at that, and in his judgment, he felt that it was enough for a foul. And in our review today, we felt that it was not."
Blandino then showed an clip of a far more obvious example of a play in which a long-snapper was contacted in the head and neck area. And because Green's crew couldn't tell the difference, the Texans were allowed to extend a drive, and came away with seven points when they should have had three.
"The rule is designed to protect the player in that snapping posture," Blandino concluded. "Think of a receiver who's trying to catch a pass. You can't hit him in the head or neck area, you can't hit a defenseless snapper, while he's in that posture, in the head or neck area either."
Yes, the Chargers were at fault for collapsing in the second half, but in a 31-28 game, that four-point swing would have made a difference. This isn't the first time Blandino has had to publicly correct his officials this week. Referee Bill Leavy's crew made two mistakes on one play in the San Francisco 49ers' 34-28 win over the Green Bay Packers. First, Leavy fudged the ruling on an offsetting dead-ball foul, which gave San Francisco an extra down. Then, the league said that tackle Joe Staley should not have been flagged during an altercation with Green Bay outside linebackers Clay Matthews.