BOSTON (CBS) — Dan Dierdorf has been in football for more than 40 years, yet the CBS color commentator saw something in Sunday afternoon’s Patriots-Jets game that he had never witnessed before, and it came at a most surprising time.
The Jets lined up for a 56-yard game-winning field goal attempt in overtime. Nick Folk’s kick sailed wide left, but the officials threw a penalty flag on the play. Patriots rookie defensive lineman Chris Jones was called for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“On the play, unsportsmanlike conduct, defense number 94, for pushing an opponent … into the pile,” referee Jerome Boger announced to the raucous Jets home crowd. “Fifteen-yard penalty, automatic first down.”
Boger later explained the call to pool reporter Mike Reiss.
“The call was that No. 94 on the defense pushed his teammate into the formation. That is a rule change for 2013 that a teammate cannot push a teammate into the opponents’ formation,” Boger said. “The umpire’s flag went up almost instantaneously as he observed the action. We just enforced it as he called it.”
The penalty call changed the game completely. The Patriots would have taken over at their own 45-yard line, needing just 20-25 yards to get into field goal range for Stephen Gostkowski. Instead, the Jets were given a first down at the New England 23-yard line. The Jets offense didn’t need to gain any more yards, and Folk sent the game-winning kick through the uprights just minutes after the surprising penalty call worked in their favor.
“I don’t believe I have ever seen that call,” Dierdorf said on the CBS broadcast.
It was indeed the first time the penalty had ever been called, as former head of officiating Mike Pereira said on Twitter shortly after the game. He also said officials were shown instances of this penalty in videos this week to show them when it should have been called.
“That is correct call in NE/NYJ game. New rule this year can’t push a teammate into the offensive formation on a field goal or try attempt,” Pereira tweeted. “Rule 913: Team B players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into offensive formation. Examples of this were put on the officials weekly training tape pointing out instances where it wasn’t called this season but should’ve been.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said the penalty prohibited teams from pushing “on the second level,” which he didn’t feel was the case on the particular play.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan said he was just happy that his team caught a break.
“Well I was fairly happy about it, was my reaction,” Ryan said after the game. “It just worked out.”
Jones himself said that he made the push, accepting responsibility for the play in the locker room. However, Jones admitted that he didn’t know the rule existed.
“I made a mistake,” Jones said. “I made that mistake and I should have been more aware.”