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Friday, October 30, 2015

Frame by Frame: Ross's "Fumble"?

Week two of my Phantom Calls motif.

Yet, not only week two of Phantom Calls themselves.

With the Ravens up 10-7 in the second quarter last Monday night, 2 minutes left in the half, having forced the Cardinals to punt for the third possession in a row, WR Jeremy Ross went back to receive the punt.  He did, and after a useful return, he was hit by Arizona reserve corner Justin Bethel.  Bethel rode Ross to the ground, executing a nearly indefensible wrestle-strip move on the way, gobbling the ball into his arms when they hit the ground.

The question became, was Ross down?

After reviewing the play and ESPN showing what seemed to be a pretty solid evidence to overturn (regardless of the bumbling guest referee/commentator they had trying to justify the call all the way), the referees reported the call as standing (as opposed to being confirmed) and moved on.

Arizona now had the ball, the momentum, and 20 yards to score.

Along with a number of other Phantom Calls in this game, the question lingered: was the call right?  Was this a fumble?

Let's check it out after the jump.

We'll start off with large frame screen caps of the strip, and then go to a treated animatic of the tackle which highlights the ball grip as well as the knee on the ground.  Remember to click on the pictures for a larger image.

Ross had originally gotten by Bethel, but cutback and gave him a blindside shot at the tackle, which he initated here.

Albeit a high tackle, Bethel had the advantage because it was from behind per se.  I remember watching and thinking that Ross had to watch out for a straight up strip.

Bethel wraps Ross and then zeroes in on the ball.  Ross remains tight with the ball, and goes down from the impact.  Notice his left, gloved hand underneath the ball.  That is a focal point to keep your eye on throughout.

Bethel solidifies his quest for the ball now, pulling his arm inside and wrapping the ball.  But the key is, that gloved left of Ross remains tight on the ball.

Here it appears that Ross recognizes the attempted strip and tries to ward it off with his right hand.  It's getting hard to see, but the left gloved hand remains tight on the ball.

At this point, the ball appears to have been stripped, but not if you look very closely.  Ross's left hand is STILL gripping the ball tightly, apparently at it's point.  Then, notice how close his leg is to the ground.  Once that knee goes down, it's over with.

NFL Rulebook Rule 3, Section 2, Article 7, Item 3. Simultaneous Possession of a Loose Ball. If a Loose Ball is controlled simultaneously by two opponents, and both players retain it, it is simultaneous possession, and the ball belongs to the team last in possession, or to the receiving team when there has been a Free Kick, Scrimmage Kick, or Fair Catch Kick. It is not simultaneous possession if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control.

Note 3: If a player has control of the ball, a slight movement of the ball will not be considered loss of possession. He must lose control of the ball in order to rule that there has been a loss of possession.

The commentating ex-referee was basically giving possession to the Cardinals because he saw some movement on the ball before Ross was down.  But that in no way denotes possession, according to the rules above.

At this point, Ross's knee is down.  Not only does it appear to remain a wrestling match over the ball, a closer look reveals that it WAS actually still a wrestling match.  According to rule, he would have had to fully lose possession in order for it to be a fumble, not experience movement and even co-possession of the ball.

Now, let's look at the strip action in motion.  I've done two things to add to the illustration:

  • I spotlighted the left purple glove, with the light fingers, gripping the ball.  If you look closely, you can follow the glove the entire way through. Never once does it budge from the ball.
  • I superimposed a graphic football at the **approximate** position of the ball, underneath the personage of helmet and arms and uniform, and put a purple dot at the point where the back of the purple glove--that is, just beneath the knuckles on the hand--remains. This shows that the fingers are still very much gripped on the ball.  This is at the end of the animation.
  • I encircled the 'down' knee at the end as well, so that you can correlate that with the continued grip of the gloved hand.

A shot of the gloves.  The tipped fingers are key, look for them below.

My ball placement might even be too high.  What is not in question, I believe, is the fact that he still has a firm grip on the ball at the same time, at best, that Bethel does, when his knee is on the ground.  How the referees missed this is beyond me.

This Frame-by-Frame post doubles as a Further Review post, since it is about a penalty.  So, we must render a judgment:

FURTHER REVIEW: Erroneous Call.

Disagree?  Please feel free to comment below or in the thread at  Thanks for reading!  GO RAVENS!!