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Let's Beat This Horse One More Time

Nov 3, 2004, 12:25 AM EDT

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Let’s Beat This Horse Just a Bit More

There seems to be a lot of confusion over what transpired in the wake of that game-changing penalty call on Sunday. After the touchdown, there was a brief conversation between the line judge, Bill Spyksma, the man who made the call and referee Tom White. Here is what White said over the PA in “explaining” the call:

Illegal motion. The man in motion was going forward prior to the snap. It’s a five-yard pentalty, fourth down (quickly realizing that the penalty didn’t carry a loss of down) third down.

That started the confusion. As I said yesterday, that was not the infraction. Clearly, James Thrash was not moving at the snap of the ball. Thrash had gone in motion from left to right and the he stopped in the slot, apparently looking to pick up a blitz. When he stopped his motion had become a shift and he was required to stop for a full second before the snap. It was clear that he did not.

The TV announcers seemed to think the call was against Chris Cooley, even though the ref had said that it was on the “man in motion” and Thrash was the only one who was moving on the play.

As if the picture needed to be any more muddled, Joe Gibbs asked who the penalty was on:

“That is an absolute mystery to me,” Gibbs said. “I asked for an explanation. All he [the referee] said to me was the R-back [running back]. The R-back is Clinton Portis. The R-back didn’t move.

Don’t know if “R-back” is zebra speak for the running back or if he thinks that’s what an end in motion called in Gibbs’ system.

A few more points before putting this one to rest:

  • I pointed this out yesterday, but it’s worth another mention. The flag came out of Spyksma’s pocket very late. It wasn’t out by the time that Portis caught Brunell’s pass. I’ve been told that it came out as late as when Portis began his celebratory takeoff from around the five yard line. I don’t know about that, but certainly it was a very, very late flag for such a call.
  • On Harris’ interception on the next play, he had a pretty good grip on Rod Garnder’s jersey at the shoulder pad as the receiver went into his cut. That allowed Harris to get position to step between Gardner and Brunell and make the killer pick.
  • All that being said, if you believe that there was some sort of payoff involved or that the line judge is an operative of the Kerry campaign, as I’ve heard some complain, I would suggest that you just stop watching the NFL. Why watch a fixed sport?
  • The thing lost in all of the controversy is this basic question: Where has that play been all year? Against a blitz, Portis getting the ball in the open field with a chance to build up some steam is a recipe for success. We should see that one again.

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