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Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Block by 81

Ok, time to do a little housecleaning.

For the first 24 hours of this blog being live, that might be an overstatement.

But, some people have questioned legalities in The Play. They wonder about the spot and re-spot of Ray's progress. They wonder of the legality of Anquan Boldin's shattering block.  They wonder and wonder again.

We cannot do much about the spot.  I just know that they reviewed it for a very long time, they re-spotted and re-measured.  To continue to argue is to simply say that the refs were flat out cheating.  Can't sign on to that one.  What I can do is demonstrate here that Q's block was not only legal, but laser-precise and in very good sportsmanship.

First of all, the NFL told NBC Sports that the block has been reviewed, post-contest. They did not find it illegal and did not issue a fine for that play.  So, again, that is the definitive answer.

Perhaps I can help your visceral need to see how clean it was.

First the rule: Rule 3 Section 3 of the NFL Rule Book (emphasis mine) says,

Blocking is the act of obstructing or impeding an opponent by contacting him with a part of the blocker’s body.
A Block in the Back is a block that is delivered from behind an opponent above his waist. It is not a block in the back:
 (a)   if the opponent turns away from the blocker, or
 (b)   if both of the blocker’s hands are on the opponent’s side.

Therefore, it is legal to hit someone from the side.  Remember, crackback blocks are not illegal, but hitting the head or neck is, and hitting low is.  

Anquan Boldin beelined for #32 Eric Weddle as Rice progressed up the field.  Look at the first shot as he prepared for impact.  Shoulders primed, head tucked away and not leading, hands basically folded.  Weddle is not in front of Boldin; look at his feet. Feet placement is everything.  If he was in front of Boldin's feet, it definitely would be a block in the back.  But he wasn't.  He is perfectly set up for a side block.

Now, look at the millisecond of impact: head tucked away from the defender, arms in, leg established IN FRONT of Weddle's leg.  This is textbook stuff, here.  Q is showing his veteran knowledge of the game.  

As we get a closer angle, we see that Weddle's legs are clearly facing forward, and Q's leg is clearly in front of one and in the space between them.  That positioning could not be gained from behind.  If you watch the play in motion, you will see that Weddle slightly turned his upper body towards Rice, hence the rule.  He's kind of sandwiched here.  This bump caused Rice to lose his balance--or I think he would have shook Chargers CB Cason and scored.  Again I say, it is not a block in the back if the player turns his back in the course of action.  It's a block in the back if the block is from behind.  

Perhaps what I would see as the best piece of evidence is the direction that Weddle falls after the block.  Look at him here.  He is falling backwards--hard!!  Not crumpled and twisted, just de-cleated and clean.  Boldin's momentum sent him that way, along with his own trajectory, all that spells a legal play.  A block in the back would have sent him down forward, right?  Unless he had grabbed onto Rice or something and been spun, but Boldin's impact was first and more prevalent.  It caused Weddle to bump Rice, but foiled his attempt to stop Rice by pre-empting a grab.  Now, it's possible that a block in the back could have made him spin fully around, but then Q's placement would be very different--upfield and on the ground, instead of downfield from Weddle.

Finally, to put any thoughts of helmet-to-helmet to rest, look at this close-up of Q right at the point of contact.  Hands up, head away, right on the side of the player.  Fully legal, fully effective, and an amazing piece of the success of The Play.  

It's plays like this that make Boldin perhaps my favorite Raven of all.  The guy is money and the ultimate team player.

Had he not made this block, Weddle tackles Rice for sure, because he had some pretty good momentum.  Maybe we don't make the first, maybe we don't win the game.  Maybe you're not reading this blog.

Yet he did, we did, and you are.

The Play lives on!