Sunday in London saw a lot of early penalties against the Denver Broncos, but a lot of the issues were routine. Here we look at some of the more esoteric situations from the win.
In the first quarter, Justin Simmons was flagged for taunting, the second taunting penalty on the Denver defense this year. We do not know what was said, and the penalty was clearly for something said. It is pretty surprising for words alone, early in a game, to receive that flag in the NFL. There is a bit of a joke among officials that in high school football, “I am better than you” will get a taunting, while in college it requires racial slurs, threats or multiple curse words to see an unsportsmanlike taunting, and in the pros there is almost nothing a player can say that will earn an unsportsmanlike foul. While Bradley Chubb was clearly trying to separate Simmons when he got flagged, so something was going on, it is still surprising that it led to taunting.
With 1:52 in the first quarter, Denver cornerback K’waun Williams was flagged for a low block. A low block is one initiated below the waist of the opponent. Low blocks are legal near the line of scrimmage on most downs and prohibited in other circumstances. This contact was outside of the legal zone for low blocks (called the tight end box - two yards larger in each direction than the tackle box and meant to incorporate most close line play). However, this was a questionable call. It is not obvious that Williams initiated contact below the waist. Multiple angles all appear to show that Williams launches into the abdomen of Cam Robinson. A block that starts at or above the waist and proceeds down is not illegal. This was a great defensive play and should not have been called a foul by line judge Kevin Codey.
Would You Call A Penalty
Is this a foul?
This poll is closed
Foul: Defensive Pass Interference #2
No Foul: There is no interference even though his arms briefly encircle the wide receiver.
I saw two challengeable plays in the game. In the second quarter, Denver may have reached the line to gain on a 3rd down run. The spot appeared to be about two thirds of a yard behind the accurate spot. Denver did not challenge the spot. In the first half, getting a fresh set of downs on third down is almost always worth risking a timeout and a first challenge, and Hackett should have thrown that flag. During the third quarter there was a questionable spot on a Jerry Jeudy catch that appeared to give Denver about two thirds of a yard, resulting in a first down instead of 3rd and one. Peterson probably made a good no-challenge, as third and one is still convertible, and timeouts are more valuable resources in the second half.
The officials were inconsistent in London, though that was probably a good thing as they started pretty poor and got much better as the day went on. There were numerous instances where I disagreed with the spots of down judge David Oliver. Early in the game, umpire Roy Ellison had a very fast trigger on penalties, resulting in several calls that I disagreed with, but he mellowed out after halftime. Ellison also saw several good flags that I missed on first watch, and was great at quickly spotting the ball. The pass interference on Pat Surtain by side judge Jim Quirk was mechanically sound but a questionable call on a play where there was no obstruction. Referee Adrian Hill missed a facemask on Russell Wilson though his positioning made it extremely difficult to see. Kareem Jackson should have been flagged for his helmet to helmet hit on Travis Etienne, a call that was missed by the whole crew, but especially back judge Keith Ferguson. While the officiating was not perfect all around, there were some great moments and broadly the officiating was up to the level we should expect from professionals.