By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Tom Brady benefited from a questionable decision regarding a fumble in the pocket.
No, the stakes on Monday night were not quite what they were some 19 years ago on a snowy night in Foxboro, but when referee Jerome Boger quickly ruled that Brady’s arm was moving forward before losing the ball in his own end zone, every football fan’s mind immediately ventured back to the infamous Tuck Rule.
In this instance, Brady dropped back to pass into his own end zone, desperately seeking to make something happen on a third-and-15 from the Tampa Bay 8-yard line. The Rams’ pass rush crowded his space in the rapidly shrinking pocket, and Morgan Fox reached out and grabbed Brady at the elbow.
Brady tried to deliver his pass, but the ball dribbled out of the end zone. The Rams quickly recovered the loose ball and returned it for a touchdown, but referee Jerome Boger had immediately blown the play dead, ruling that it was an incomplete pass. The umpire, standing on the other side of the formation in the end zone, threw down his blue marker, indicating that he believed it was a fumble.
In live motion, it looked like an obvious fumble, and officials have generally allowed those plays to be completed on the field before blowing the play dead. Yet Boger ruled quickly that it was an incomplete pass and not a fumble, thus killing the Rams’ chances of turning it into a touchdown.
Rams head coach Sean McVay challenged the ruling, and replay showed that it looked like he’d have a strong case.
Is this a Tom Brady fumble? pic.twitter.com/qjzH6r5A8I
— Roto Street Journal (RSJ) (@RotoStJournal) November 24, 2020
Alas, Alberto Riveron in New York ruled that the right call on the field had been made. Naturally, the internet could only think of the tuck rule.
The Tuck Rule plays always works in Tom Brady’s favor pic.twitter.com/uX8jJrS7fV
— FantasyPros (@FantasyPros) November 24, 2020
No tuck rule on this one. That’s a Rams TD or least their 🏈. Why would officials blow that dead? Let it go, replay can correct it. 😤😤
— shannon sharpe (@ShannonSharpe) November 24, 2020
🗣 "That's the tuck rule!" pic.twitter.com/XjeZkFEIOI
— ESPN (@espn) November 24, 2020
Bro, this is literally the tuck rule all over again 🤬🤬🤯 pic.twitter.com/ozlXEyhwXP
— ℙ𝕒𝕔𝕜𝕖𝕣𝕤 𝕊𝕫𝕟 (On a Follow Restriction) (@LordofTheS1th) November 24, 2020
I’m not going to bring up the tuck rule. I’m not going to bring up the tuck rule. 🤦🏾♂️
— Antwan V. Staley (@antwanstaley) November 24, 2020
The NFL eliminated the tuck rule in 2013, by the way, so that’s not what was at play in this one. Nevertheless, with same quarterback in a similar play, the comparisons were unavoidable.
The ruling proved to be significant, as the Rams — who led 24-17 at the time and would have been given possession of the football at the point of recovery had the review determined it was a fumble — ended up going three-and-out and punting the ball back to the Bucs. Tampa would tie the game at 24-24 later in the fourth quarter.
The Rams, though, would later kick a field goal and win the game, 27-24.
Obviously, the replay showed that Brady’s arm was kind of moving forward. Sort of. Maybe. At the very least, it was close enough to make it hard to overturn.
The fault in this play came when Boger blew his whistle far too quickly on a play that looked, smelled and felt like a fumble when it played out in live speed.