While it was a terrible second half for the New York Jets against the Pittsburgh Steelers, one rule in particular is continually misinterpreted by officials and it reared its ugly head again on Sunday. New York's wide receivers were dropping passes all over the field and the defense wasn't wrapping up Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and even the coaching staff didn't make the proper adjustments after a strong first half.
For the second time in two seasons, the Jets successfully forced a fumble and appeared to have recovered the football, until an official replay review deemed the ballcarrier "down by contact".
Last season at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, the Jets started the second half on defense and forced the Patriots into a 2nd-and-15 play. New England's gunslinger Tom Brady back pedaled and tossed the ball downfield, when Deion Branch came back to the ball and made a diving catch, but wasn't touched on the ground.
Steelers running back Issac Redman finding the open field on Sunday
Not a single defender was on Branch as he made the highlight reel catch and realizing this he started to get up off the ground and made an attempt to continue the play, but as he was doing so the Jets defenders got to him and forced Branch to fumble the ball. The football was recovered and possession should have been awarded to the Jets, but a challenge flag was thrown by Patriots coach Bill Belichick and upon video review it was overturned.
Officials claimed that because Branch's left knee was down while he was trying to continue the play that he was down by contact. The Patriots kept the ball and scored on the next play.
Almost an identical play transpired in Pittsburgh on Sunday except the question should've been where the ball should've been placed.
As the Steelers were surging towards the end zone in the fourth quarter there was a play that made you think the Jets were going to win the review as Yeremiah Bell stripped Isaac Redman of the ball after a six yard gain on first down. Unfortunately for the Jets, the ruling did not go their way as that term "down by contact" came up yet again.
Redman was given the ball by Ben Roethlisberger who sidestepped three would-be tacklers, with outside linebacker Garrett McIntyre the first man in to try and wrap his arms around Redman at the 32-yard line. Two yards behind the line of scrimmage Redman's right knee hit the ground, but he continued to make a play or as the new term is called "a football move" and earned six yards.
The forced fumble was overturned and the Steelers kept the ball, but instead of marking a two yard loss that should've been 2nd-and-12, Redman was allowed to keep those six yards and the Steelers were awarded a 2nd-and-4 eventually converting a touchdown.
The NFL throughout the years has made numerous rule changes to help give offense's the advantage and now this "down by contact" is truly the biggest sham in the rulebook. This ruling has been called whether it was the NFL officials or the replacement referees and in several instances cost the Jets a chance to put points on the board or extend drives.
If there is a continuation of a play or if there is another "football move" being made after going down and trying to stay on your feet, then "down by contact" should be removed or held back until a real stoppage of play happens. The NFL rules committee has to do something about this often misinterpreted and misleading ruling.