Strange Rule Saves Bears' Season
PHILADELPHIA--A little-known and seldom-applied NFL rule helped the Chicago Bears keep their season from unraveling Sunday.
The Bears and Philadelphia Eagles were tied at 9 early in the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field when Chicago quarterback Brian Griese had a snap by center Olin Kreutz go through his legs, untouched by Griese. The ball rolled behind the quarterback and was picked up by Eagles safety Sean Considine, whose return put his team in position for a go-ahead touchdown.
But referee Ed Hochuli immediately whistled the play dead and called a false start on the Bears, who retained possession of the ball near midfield. The Bears ended that drive with a field goal and went on to win the game, 19-16, to improve their record to 3-4 and retain some realistic hopes of making a run to the playoffs. Hochuli explained that, by rule, if the quarterback is under center and has a snap go through his legs and the ball is picked up behind the quarterback by another player, the play is dead and it's a false start penalty on the offense.
The ruling was affirmed by officiating supervisor Art McNalley, who was in the press box at Lincoln Financial Field.
"If the ball is snapped in between the quarterback's legs, he has to be the one to get the ball," McNalley told a pool reporter. "Under these circumstances, it has to be ruled a false start. If he's in shotgun and the [ball] is snapped over his head, [it's a] clean play. Pick it up. Go ahead and go the other way. Everything's fine. The fact that he's taking the snap direct from the center [and the ball] goes through his legs, [the referee has] got to kill it right away, false start."
The rule seems odd. What exactly is it protecting against? A trick play by the offense in which a snap is sent through the quarterback's legs to another player?
"I don't know what the intent of the rule is," McNalley told the pool reporter, "but the ball has to be taken by the quarterback. If he doesn't handle the snap, then it's got to be a false start."
People in both locker rooms were perplexed about the game-changing ruling.
"I've never heard of that rule," Considine said. "But the referee whistled it dead and was very sure about it. I guess he was right. I guess it is a rule if he says it is."
Bears Coach Lovie Smith said: "I haven't seen that. But I'm all in favor of that, for sure."
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Posted by: Luke Zimmerman | October 22, 2007 7:04 PM
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