By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — We watch football because we love it. The hits, the strength, the finesse, the all-world skill and power on display on almost every single snap. There’s just nothing like it.
One thing we don’t watch football for is the punting. Or so we thought.
Thursday night forever changed the scope of watching NFL games and perhaps professional sports in general. Because we saw … a double punt. And it was glorious.
In the event that you missed it, this historic moment took place late in the third quarter of Thursday night’s wacky and wild game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks. With Russell Wilson trying to tough it out after having his middle finger smashed backward (or sideways?) by Aaron Donald, the Seahawks went three-and-out (after a Donald sack) and had to punt.
And it was at that exact moment, with three minutes left in the third quarter of a 16-7 game, that the greatest moment in sports history took place. (OK, that’s an exaggeration. But it was top five, easily.)
Jamir Jones burst through the line and blocked Michael Dickson’s punt. It was, as blocked punts go, a rather easy one for the Rams’ linebacker. Unfortunately for him, though, he had absolutely no idea where the ball was. Dickson did, as he caught a glimpse of the ball spinning upright about 10 yards to his left.
Dickson is a former Australian rules football player, which makes him more athletic than 99 percent of punters in the history of mankind. He put that athleticism on display by sprinting to the ball and making a one-handed scoop without missing a beat. You will, quite frankly, never see a punter do that in the middle of a real live NFL game for the rest of your life.
From there, Dickson thought about running with the ball, but with 20ish yards to go before gaining a first down, Dickson realized his limitations and did what he does best: He booted the dang ball again.
At that point, nobody was back deep for the return anymore, so it sailed and bounced and rolled a cool 68 yards before being downed by Seattle.
It was the best thing.
So this happened.
— NFL (@NFL) October 8, 2021
If that happened in a video game, you’d scream that it was a glitch. But sometimes, real life is bananas.
Making the situation even better was that seemingly nobody knew if it was actually legal. The group of bewildered spectators included Mike Pereira, the rules analyst for Fox who … used to be in charge of NFL officiating. A former on-field official himself, Pereira expressed zero doubt that kicking a punt twice on the same play is illegal.
“You can advance the ball once it’s been blocked, you can pick it up behind the line of scrimmage, and you can advance it. But no, you can’t kick it again,” Pereira stated confidently.
Joe Buck and Troy Aikman had already stated that the double punt wouldn’t count, and most viewers at home surely thought the same. The yellow flag lying on the turf indicated that the officials on the field felt similarly.
But then, after about a 90-second huddle between the officials and Rams head coach Sean McVay, referee Ronald Torbert addressed the crowd and delivered the message that the NFL world badly needed to hear: The kick was legal.
And as it turned out, the officials never doubted whether or not the second kick was legal. They were merely discussing whether Dickson’s entire body had crossed the line of scrimmage before sending that majestic kick sailing through the Seattle sky.
“There is no foul for illegally kicking the ball,” Torbert announced. “The punter’s heel was on the line of scrimmage at the time that he kicked the ball.”
Whether Dickson did in fact have a body part behind the line of scrimmage of the 21-yard line? It’s not entirely clear. The only angle on the broadcast makes it difficult to tell, but obviously there was no camera positioned directly at the line of scrimmage for what wasn’t expected to be the coolest punt in NFL history. One replay shown later makes it look like Dickson did have a body part or two behind the line of scrimmage, but it was far from conclusive — and McVay didn’t throw his challenge flag on the play, so that was never reviewed.
Nevertheless, given everything that went on with the play, just about everyone was OK with the “close enough” decision from the officiating crew.
In #LARvsSEA, the punt was blocked and recovered by the kicking team. The punter kicks the ball again from behind the line of scrimmage. This is a legal kick and the result of the play was the ball was ruled down at the 11 yard line. pic.twitter.com/saAYrCKlzp
— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) October 8, 2021
In that 90-second delay, everybody on Twitter was screaming for the officiating crew to allow the double punt to stand. In a rare case of everybody getting what they want, the NFL delivered.
A double punt — all the way, across the sky. It’s so intense! What does it mean?!
It was as majestic as it sounds. We’ll never see anything like it again.
Thank goodness for Thursday Night Football.