Options on the Punt Double Foul
There was a fun (for officials) rules scenario on the Denver punt midway through the fourth quarter. One of the Jets linemen held after the punt was away, and then Denver committed kick catch interference at approximately the 23 yard line. The ball rolled to about the 10 yard line, where it was recovered by the Jets. Because this was a double foul (one on each team) on a kick, the team that ended in possession could choose to rekick. The other option (as called) was to spot the ball at approximately the 10 yard line. I have no idea why it took the referee almost a minute conference to ask Robert Salah “do you want the ball at the 10 or rekick?” The choices were straightforward.
Garret Bolles was called for his first hold of the year against the Jets. It was a reasonable call. I have marked him with another missed hold from this game, and three possible but not obvious holds so far this year. It’s a pretty good year for him, and he is definitely one of the beneficiaries of the changing emphasis on holds.
Everything is a Fumble
There were a lot of fumbles in this game, which made it a good one to revisit one of the recent officiating tenets of the NFL. Officials have been highly encouraged to, unless absolutely sure, rule everything a fumble. This is because in every potentially ambiguous fumble situation, if they call it a fumble they can always go back on review and fairly call it an incomplete pass, or down by contact, and put the ball in the right spot. However, if they call it incomplete instead of a fumble, then the officials would whistle the play dead and would have no obvious way to know what would have happened next (who would have recovered, how far they might have advanced the ball). It relies on replay officials to evaluate a play neutrally instead of presuming the officials get it correct on the field, but its a pretty smooth system. It also lead to at least one of the fumbles in this game, which probably was not and should not have been called a fumble (though in none of the cases did it end up mattering).
What was strange is that the officials in this contest were fairly inconsistent, and called two non obvious plays clear non-fumbles. In particular, I disliked that they whistled the potential Zach Wilson fumble dead midway through the 4th quarter instead of letting it play out. It may be that Wilson was down, but it was not obvious, and so I believe they should have called it a fumble and let it play out. Instead, they forced the game along. It was probably the better call, but worse mechanics.
I really enjoyed the spots throughout the game. The deep three did a good job of monitoring close cornerback play without interfering in the flow of the game and their judgment of the close play of Gardner and Surtain was appropriate. They were typically slow to whistle plays dead . On both teams they let some medium holds and late hits go, but also called some small holds. I thought the officiating was even overall, and I counted three missed or questionable calls that went against each team. Honestly it was a really good game from the officials.
And then came the 4th quarter. I felt like the crew was quite poor down the stretch, making lots of small and medium mistakes. they were physically slow and pretty timid, letting a lot of cheapish stuff go. They had some complicated enforcements, but took a real long time to get through those. One glaring example was on the Broncos final touchdown drive, we saw both the broadcast and teams waiting and watching for them to finish marking the penalty off after the roughing the passer call. That is a pretty slow response for an NFL crew, and especially one that had been having a really solid game through three quarters.