What Just Happened? : Jets Game-Winning Penalty

There was a penalty involving “pushing” called during a failed field goal attempt in the waning minutes of the Patriots at Jets game on Sunday afternoon, a penalty that directly resulted in the Jets getting significantly better field position and kicking a closer field goal for the win.

So, what happened? Isn’t “pushing” happening on every play?

No. And yes. But not legally. But let’s talk about it.

During the play in question (a field goal attempt) one of the Patriots’ defenders came from behind and pushed another Patriots defender forward into the offensive line. The goal of this action is to break through the offensive line and disrupt the kicker. The NFL rule used to be that defenders couldn’t come from the second level – linebackers or defensive backs behind the defensive line – and push a fellow player forward. The new rule, which made it’s stunning and game-deciding debut yesterday, is that no player can come from behind and push another player forward. It’s a safety issue. The penalty was called as unsportsmanlike conduct for pushing (15 yards) and put the Jets in much better field position to kick a game-winning field goal, which they did.

The irony in this situation (other than having an NFL penalty called for pushing, which seems funny to me considering the much more violent acts that routinely occur on a football field) is that pushing frequently occurs on the offensive side of the ball, even though it’s illegal there too, and it is never, ever called. Case in point: every quarterback sneak ever played. There are always players pushing the quarterback forward in that scenario.

That being said, the safety issue is much more apparent in the field goal situation than it is in the QB sneak (or any offensive pushing) situation. So it was kind of like the Patriots got caught going 46 mph in a 45 mph work zone. It’s more dangerous than speeding in regular traffic, but no one is going to call you out on it. Until you get a speeding ticket. And technically, a mile over the limit is still breaking the law. That’s pretty much what happened to the Patriots on Sunday. It was a tough break for them since this all went down in overtime, but it was still a good call.

Make sense?