Over the past few seasons, I’ve tried to keep the amount of complaining I do about National Football League officials to a minimum, at least on here. (Twitter is another story. . .sometimes.) And while the Minnesota Vikings’ offense performed poorly enough where they probably didn’t deserve to defeat the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football, the Seahawks certainly didn’t need any additional assistance.
But they got it on what might have been the biggest play of the game.
Blocked field goal by Bobby Wagner... Here's the rule:— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) December 11, 2018
Running forward and leaping across the LOS in an obvious attempt to block a kick UNLESS the leaping player was in a stationary position on the line of scrimmage when the ball was snapped. #Seahawks pic.twitter.com/GjwS7l8Cek
With the Vikings trailing the Seahawks 6-0 and facing a 4th-and-9 from the Seattle 29-yard line, the Vikings brought on kicker Dan Bailey to attempt a 47-yard field goal. The kick, as you can see from the video above, was blocked by Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner to preserve that lead. To block the kick, Wagner made an incredible leap over the Vikings’ offensive line and got into position to make the block.
The officials, initially, threw a flag on Wagner for violating the league’s rule against “leverage” on kick attempts. The penalty would have been a 15-yard personal foul, and would have given the Vikings a fresh set of downs at the Seattle 14-yard line.
And then the officials, led by head referee Brad Allen, decided that they would pick up the flag after all. The penalty was negated, and the Seahawks marched down the field to score the game’s first touchdown and effectively end the competitive portion of Monday night’s contest.
Why was the flag picked up? Well, according to the NFL rulebook, graciously provided by ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, I’m not entirely sure.
Don’t think that it will impact the outcome, but here is what the rule book say about leaping over the line to block a FG: pic.twitter.com/X7o0AzB0Ox— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) December 11, 2018
Seifert’s tweet comes directly from the NFL rulebook, which you can find right here at the league’s official website. The specific section cited is Section 3, which you can find on page 52 of the rulebook. It reads as follows:
(o) Jumping or standing on a teammate or opponent to block or attempt to block an opponent’s kick or apparent kick.
(p) Placing a hand or hands on a teammate or opponent to gain additional height to block or attempt to block an opponent’s kick or apparent kick, or in an attempt to jump through a gap to block an opponent’s kick or apparent kick.
(q) Being picked up by a teammate in a block or an attempt to block an opponent’s kick or apparent kick.
(r) Clearly running forward and leaping in an obvious attempt to block a field goal, or Try-kick, or apparent kick unless the leaping player was in a stationary position on the line of scrimmage when the ball was snapped. A player, who is behind the line of scrimmage before or at the snap, may run forward and leap, provided he does not cross the line of scrimmage or land on players.
The relevant clause. . .I think it’s a clause. . .here is (p). (The italicized parts were apparently added this season. The link has been corrected.) As you can see in the video, Wagner quite clearly put his hands on his teammate’s backs in order to jump over the line and get into position to block the kick.
It seems that other folks that have officiated this game before thought that the flag was properly thrown.
Clearly a foul by Seattle on the blocked FG. A player cannot use his handS on an opponent or a teammate to jump through a gap to block a FG. #MINvSEA— Terry McAulay (@SNFRules) December 11, 2018
As many have noted, the play in #MINvsSEA should have been a penalty on Seattle for leverage. The officials should not have picked up the flag on that play.— Gene Steratore (@GeneSteratore) December 11, 2018
Lots of talk about the Wagner block. The wording in the rule book is NEW this year and is clear. The new wording states, "May not place a hand or hands on a teammate or opponent in an attempt to jump through a gap to block an opponent's kick or apparent kick." Case closed. Foul.— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) December 11, 2018
Now, look, I understand that the officiating in this one wasn’t the reason that the Minnesota Vikings lost on Monday night. They had plenty of opportunities to take advantage of in Seattle and managed to grasp none of them.
Do I have any faith that, even if the flag had stood, the Vikings’ offense would have managed to do anything positive with the ball at the Seattle 14-yard line? No. None. Zero.
Is it likely that the Vikings would have lost on Monday night had the officials gotten this call right? Yeah, probably.
But that doesn’t change the fact that Brad Allen’s crew ignored a rule that, honestly, couldn’t be spelled out more clearly in the league rulebook. Bobby Wagner broke the rules to block that field goal, the officials were set to call a penalty on it, and the officials decided that they’d go ahead and pick up the flag and wipe out the penalty.
Too many times this season, the officials have been the story this NFL season. This is the first time, to my recollection, that it’s really affected the Vikings. I’m guessing that nobody will be held to account for it, because that’s generally not how officiating in the NFL works, but the bottom line is that they screwed up, and they screwed up big.