Cold, Hard Football Facts contributor and Boston sports media personality Jerry Thornton outlined succinctly the rulebook controversy surrounding the end of the Patriots-Jets game at Met Life Stadium Sunday.
He charges that league executives literally rewrote the rule book in the moments after the game to cover their ass, after what may have been an incorrect call influenced the outcome of the game, citing work done by NFL reporter Tom Curran.
The Jets won 30-27 in overtime, but only after a rarely called penalty against the Patriots negated a missed 56-yard field goal by Jets kicker Nick Folk.
Patriots special teamer Chris Jones, lined up in the middle of the Patriots front on the field goal block team, was flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct after pushing one of his own teammates from behind. The Jets were handed the yardage and an automatic first down, and made it count when Folk soon converted a 42-yard game winner.
Here's what the rulebook said earlier, according to a screen shot captured by Curran and reported by Thornton:
The key here is that players NOT on the line of scrimmage can't push teammates from behind.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick argued that there should have been no penalty, because Jones was clearly positioned on the line of scrimmage.
But when quick-thinking fans went back to look at the rule on NFL.com, they say the words "not on the line of scrimmage" had suddenly been removed.
As admittedly hopeless Patriots homer Thornton noted: "Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean everyone’s not actually out to get you."
In this case, the paranoia may be justified. But we'll see how this story unfolds in the hours and days ahead.
Curran, for his part, says the rule was correct but poorly outlined by the NFL. He writes: "Jumping in 90 minutes after a game to scrub evidence just looks . . . bad."
Whatever happens, Patriots fans certainly won't get any sympathy from fans elsewhere. The infamous "Tuck Rule" game more than a decade ago insured that any call that goes against the Patriots will be seen as karmic justice by the rest of the football world.