Championship Sunday was filled with pivotal plays and penalties in both games that swung the fates of teams battling for a Super Bowl berth.
One of the biggest was an offside penalty on Kansas City Chiefs pass rusher Dee Ford. Officials flagged Ford for lining up in the neutral zone on a play that resulted in Charvarius Ward intercepting New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Penalty dooms Chiefs
The interception that would have all but sealed a Chiefs victory was wiped off the board with around a minute left in regulation, and Brady marched the Patriots to a touchdown before New England eventually won in overtime.
Unlike the game-changing fiasco in New Orleans, there was no wrangling over this call. Ford was clearly lined up well into the neutral zone. Heartbreaking? Yes. Controversial? No.
Except Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said Monday that he wasn’t completely satisfied with how officials handled Ford on the pivotal penalty.
Andy Reid: Ford wasn’t warned he was offside
“Normally, you’re warned and the coach is warned if somebody is doing that before they throw it in a game of that magnitude,” Reid told reporters. “But they did. And he didn’t waste any time in doing it.
“He didn’t wait until the interception to throw it. He had his hand on his flag right from the get go, and he saw it from his angle, and he thought it was the call.”
Neutral zone infraction rule
Section 3 of the NFL rule book entry on neutral zone infractions addresses that a player who has been warned about infractions is to be automatically penalized, even if he corrects his illegal position prior to the snap.
A player, after he has received a warning, enters into the neutral zone. It is a foul, even if he returns to a legal position prior to the snap without contacting an opponent or causing a reaction (movement) by an offensive player in close proximity.
What isn’t addressed there and what isn’t clear to the viewer is how and when players are warned. Whatever that process is, Reid appears to believe Ford was not afforded a warning he believed he was due.
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