May I get a bit techie here, please? The center on a football team is like a quarterback. He is responsible for blocking assignments, leaning over the ball, barking out colors or numbers to best combat the charging efforts of the defense.
He is responsible for making a perfect snap whether the quarterback is under center or eight yards deep. After he has done all those chores, he then drops back to form the front of the pocket to protect his quarterback if a pass has been called.
On many snaps, center Jason Kelce of the Eagles blocked not one but two rushers heading straight toward his quarterback. On off-tackle runs, he blocked the man over him and ran to the point of attack to do more damage there. Kelce was superb all game and must be recognized.
So close was the game, only once did something go wrong. With 2:21 left, for the first time all day, a rusher sacked a quarterback. It caused a fumble, leading to a field goal and an eight-point late Philadelphia lead.
That left arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, New England’s Tom Brady, the quintessential fourth-quarter come back-guy, to do it again.
Anytime a game ends with the last play being a fifty-yard Hail Mary, it has been one hell of a game.
That’s how Super Bowl 52 will be remembered, a dozen superb athletes reaching for the stars to complete or stop a touchdown. In 1984, another New Englander, Doug Flutie of Boston College, gained immortality in beating the U. of Miami on such a play.
This time the glory went to the Philadelphia Eagles, playing with a back-up quarterback, Nick Foles, who nobody thought would be able to win against Belichick and Brady.
New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia has done a great job for the Pats for many years. He’ll be rewarded by being named head coach of the Detroit Lions. He’ll carry with him the memory of one play he would gladly defend again.
As the first half ended, it was fourth-and one for the Eagles. They chose to go for the touchdown rather than take the easy three points with a chip shot field goal.
They lined up with quarterback Foles just outside his right tackle and a running back eight yards behind center. It was a play Foles had run in high school and his coach allowed it to go into the game’s playbook. Fearful someone might see it at practice during the week, the Eagles practiced it in the secrecy of the hotel’s ball room.
The defensive guy covering the receiver to Foles’s right had to follow that receiver crossing left. Foles then snuck out into the empty area to make the catch. Patricia’s face immediately showed his bewilderment at the empty end zone area.
That was the single most important play the Eagles ran all game, giving them the win in the greatest Super Bowl ever.
And, it was illegal. The rules require at least seven offensive men must be on the line of scrimmage on the snap of the ball. Clearly the right end, set out wide, is at least two yards behind the line of scrimmage on the snap.
This close to the goal line the advantage clearly goes to the player with the most room to maneuver going into the end zone, in this case being the Philadelphia right end, being three yards from his defender.
By looking at the side judge just before the snap to receive agreement that he is properly placed, the Eagles player puts tremendous pressure on the referee to not respond either verbally or by nodding his head, fearful if he does so, it will alter the movement of the receiver and cause a penalty.
This nod of agreement from the referee as to proper player placement is not part of the rules but rather a gentlemen’s agreement between player and ref that has grown over time.
The Eagles exploited this exchange so the referee dare not tell the receiver he was illegally placed and should move two yards closer to the line of scrimmage for fear the ball would be snapped while the player was moving forward causing an illegal motion penalty.
The ref was had.
He was clearly wrong in intimating that the Eagles player was properly positioned when he was clearly not.
The play was run and the receiver sped across the line, cutting left with the disadvantaged defender far behind him.
It is not the responsibility of the side judge to tell a player whether he is lined up correctly or not. It is the player’s job to place himself correctly. The ref was caught between a rock and a hard place. I think you’ll see a rules change regarding this situation next year.
Every scoring play is reviewed but not every action during the play is reviewable. A punch might be thrown but not seen during the play but clearly seen during the review. A penalty cannot be assessed because the punching incident was deemed not reviewable.
Bad policy. An infraction occurred. Penalize it upon review. Had this been the case, the touchdown pass to Foles would have been negated because there were not seven men on the line of scrimmage, and who knows what might have happened after that?