Mailbag and Mishmash

Random thoughts that wouldn’t fit anywhere else…

  • First an email from Brian H:

I have a question concerning what constitutes forward progress on the 4th and 2 play from Sunday night’s Colts/Patriots game.

If a player has his momentum carrying him backwards before he has possession of the football, is forward progress “established” once he gains possession and the ball spotted at that point, or is the ball spotted where he is down by contact since he was never moving forward with possession at any point?  Does it matter if he doesn’t get two feet down once he gains possession?

From what I’ve seen of the replay, Faulk’s momentum is clearly carrying him backward as the ball arrives.  As described above, should the ball be spotted where he gains possession or where is eventually down by contact as Bullitt falls on him?  He never gets two feet down either since his bobble comes after his first foot lands and comes off the ground.

Listening to the broadcast on NBC, Collinsworth says that “Kevin Faulk was bobbling the ball, so instead of getting forward progress, they marked him down where he actually landed on the ground,” which suggests that forward progress is not established simply by possessing the ball but where he is down by contact.

Of course, given some of the errors made by commentators about the rules of football in recent weeks, I don’t fully trust his assessment, but it seems like it could be right.  As far as the actual spot, in my opinion, if possession establishes forward progress, he may have gotten a bad spot, but if the spot is where he is down by contact, then his spot seemed to be much more generous.

I don’t hear anything about what constitutes forward progress in the discussion anywhere.  Could you clear this up?  Thanks for your time.

Thanks for the email. I’ve spent the last hour with the NFL Rule book (don’t bother with the useless one on NFL.com) and cannot find any definition of “forward progress”.  A catch is defined by possession and two feet down.  My understanding was that forward progress for an untouched receiver is measured by where he lands.  So if a player catches the ball at the 40, but is in the air and lands at the 38 where he is then hit by a defender, I believe he only gets the 38.

If he is contacted in the air, however, forward progress is marked by the point at which he securely gained control of the ball.  So he jumps at the 40 and gets possession, and is driven back, he is awarded the first spot he had clean possession.

Not only can I not confirm that from the rule book, I can’t find ANYWHERE in the book any definition of forward progress at all.  I’m reasonably certain what Collinsworth described is incorrect, however.  If anyone else can find any definition of forward progress in the rule book, please let me know.

  • Second, a look at the playoff positioning. As of today, the Colts need to finish 6-1 to assure themselves of the #1 seed.  If Cincinnati wins out, they will finish 14-2. If both teams finished with 14-2 records, the #1 seed would be determined by record among common opponents (as both teams would have finished with 10-2 marks against the AFC).  Currently, Cincy is 3-1 against current and future common Colts opponents (Baltimore, Denver, Houston).  Both teams still play the Jets.  The Bengals can finish no better than 4-1.  Cincy is 2-2 against current and future common Colts opponents.  The Bengals can finiish no better than 3-2.  The Colts still have four games against ‘common opponents’ of the Bengals.  They play @Baltimore, @Hou, Denver, and NYJ.

So until the Bengals lose another game (which I’m sure will happen), we assume Indy has to win 6 games.  If they do lose two or more games, if at least only one of them is to someone not on that list, Indy would finish tied with ahead of Cincy in that tie breaker, and the next would strength of victory (which is impossible to calculate now).

  • Finally, we’ll record 18 Plays tonight, but a first look at the tape confirms what I thought at the time.  New England did not ‘take advantage’ of an “injury depleted secondary” for the Colts.  There were no corners getting beat by Randy Moss during the 24 point outburst.  That’s because there were no corners covering Moss.  Indy played a straight zone on him, and it made zero sense.  At least through the early part of the game, whenever Moss had a corner actually playing him, he was contained.  Powers and Lacey both made plays on him.  His big catches (and there were three huge ones), all came on week zone coverage.  The Indy secondary is fine.  Polian said last night that he felt the improvement in the second half was ‘80% scheme and 20% performance’.  It’s true.  There was no one getting toasted for huge plays. It’s just not a good idea to cover Randy Moss with a linebacker and safety.  Rember that for the rematch.
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