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October 10, 2016

Pederson: Ryan Mathews' fumble should have been a dead ball out of bounds

Eagles NFL
101016DougPederson Duane Burleson/AP

Doug Pederson informs the side judge that he's lucky to be alive after throwing a bogus flag on Brandon Brooks.

Sunday afternoon in Detroit, running back Ryan Mathews made a devastating and inexcusable mistake when he fumbled the ball with the Eagles leading by two points with under three minutes left in the game. If there is one thing you cannot do as a runner in that situation, it is fumbling the football. The Lions were gifted great field position, and they capitalized on it by hitting a lead-changing field goal that ended up being the difference in the game.

As such, Pederson made no excuses for the play, noting simply, "We can’t cough the ball up.”

However, after Mathews put the ball on the ground, what ensued next was a complex situation on the fumble recovery. The Lions recovered the ball, but on the booth review, there was a question as to whether or not the ball touched Jason Kelce, whose body was partially out of bounds.

If the ball touches a player who has part of his body out of bounds, that player serves as something of an extension of the territory that is out of bounds. In other words, if the ball touches the player out of bounds, the ball is out of bounds. Got it? Good.

NFL puppet senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino put out a video explaining the rule, but came to the conclusion that the ball never contacted Kelce. Blandino's explanation:

However, omitted from the angles that Blandino showed was an angle that, in my opinion, clearly shows that the ball contacted the left ankle of Kelce. Lions defensive end Anthony Zettel (#69 below) rushes in and makes a heads-up play by swatting the ball back toward the field of play so that it does not go out of bounds, thus giving the Lions a chance to recover it. However, in doing so, the ball appears to clearly hit Kelce's ankle, as evidenced by the downward turn the top of the football takes upon contact, shown in slow motion here:

Pederson was asked if the ball is dead when it contacted Kelce. He confirmed that he thought it should have been a dead ball.

“It is," he said. "It’s a dead ball out of bounds. That’s the rule.”

Pederson added that the Eagles would be sending in several plays for the league to review, although he was clear to note that officiating was not why the Eagles lost.

“We’ll send a few clips in, out of this game, but that’s not why we lost this football game," he said.

If I may make a few guesses on the other plays the Eagles will send in:

The Darren Sproles chop block

This was laughable. According to the rules, "a Chop Block is a block by the offense in which one offensive player blocks a defensive player in the area of the thigh or lower while another offensive player engages that same defensive player above the waist."

Here's the play:

That is an outstanding block by Sproles. It appears as though Allen Barbre was going to block the blitzing safety, but backed away when he saw Sproles pick him up. In no way did Barbre engage with the defender. That cost the Eagles 15 yards.

Nevin Lawson pass interference on Dorial Green-Beckham

The broadcast booth praised Lawson here for playing the arms, not the ball. What?!? This is very clearly pass interference, as Lawson is yanking Green-Beckham's arms to the ground before the ball arrives.

Brandon Brooks holding call on Tahir Whitehead

Knowing that he wasn't going to make the tackle on the play and not making an effort to turn and chase the runner, Lions linebacker Tahir Whitehead threw his arm up in the air begging for a holding call, and he successfully baited the official into throwing the flag. This is simply a good block by Brooks.

This call negated a 23 yard run that would have given the Eagles the ball at the Detroit 13. Instead, it put them back to the Lions 36, where they faced a 2nd and 20 and eventually had to settle for a 49-yard field goal attempt, which was good.

There are certainly more penalties (or no-calls) that could be nit-picked, but the above examples were the most egregious. On the day, the Eagles were called for 14 penalties. The Lions were called for two. If you're thinking, "Hey, that probably doesn't happen very often," you are correct.

Again, as Pederson noted, the Eagles have only themselves to blame for the loss. However, NFL officiating is often wholly incompetent, and is hurting the product.

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