EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -- Nick Folk, as reliable as a kicker could be having hit 15 straight field goals, lined up in overtime to attempt a 56-yarder against the New England Patriots. As he saw the potential game winner sail low and left of the uprights, he also noticed a penalty flag out of the corner of his eye.
“I was kind of bummed that I didn’t make it,” Folk said. “But I saw the flag go up on their side so I was like, something on them, so whether it was five-yarder or a 15, I didn’t know but I was ready to kick a 51 at that point.”
But he didn’t have to. The call was an unsportsmanlike on Chris Jones for pushing from behind during the field goal attempt. It is a new rule this season, and it was the first time the penalty has been called, but it meant the New York Jets had the ball back and were 15 yards closer to the end zone.
"The mistake was mine," Jones said. "I take it."
The Jets ran the ball three times for a loss of one yard, and Folk kicked a 42-yard game-winner, giving the Jets a 30-27 victory over their AFC East rivals.
Referee Jerome Bolger explained the rule to pool reporter Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston.
“The call was that No. 94 on the defense pushed his teammate into the formation,” Bolger said. “That is a rule change for 2013 that a teammate cannot push a teammate into the opponents’ formation.”
The truth is, few on the field knew why the Jets were getting the ball back once Folk missed the first attempt.
“I thought the game was over at that point,” Austin Howard said. “You’re blocking and blocking and you look up and the see the ball going, going and curve off to the left. You say, oh shoot. But then you hear the whistle blow and you turn and you see the flag and you’re like, wait a minute, what’s going on?”
Damon Harrison, who was also blocking for Folk, saw the referees discussing the penalty and went over to plead the Jets’ case.
“I just overheard the refs talking,” Harrison said. “I can’t say I knew the call but just begged and pleaded to hurry up and call it so we could get back out.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was under the mistaken impression that a push had to be initiated from the second level to be illegal, and went on the field to talk to the officials.
“You can’t push from the second level, but I don’t think we did that,” Belichick said.
The officials did not interpret it that way.
“[It’s] any push,” Bolger said. “It could be with the body, not necessarily with the hand, but with the body into his teammate, into the formation. It’s any type of pushing action.”
Meanwhile, offensive lineman Willie Colon was glad the call went the Jets’ way.
“I don’t know what happened honestly, I just knew it wasn’t us,” Colon said. “I saw Belichick go crazy and I heard the refs talking about it was someone from New England and I got excited.”
Folk, who didn’t see the actual penalty occur, may have been one of the few who was aware of the rule and the reason it’s been implemented.
“What they’re trying to do is clean that up,” Folk said. “The offensive line guys, they don’t get a chance to fire out like a defense they just have to sit there and take it. They made a new rule for the center so you have to stay off them on field goal-field goal block. They can’t get it because they’re sitting there with their head between their legs. They can’t even try to protect themselves. It’s just a protection thing trying to clean up the game.”
The best part for Folk? He’s still perfect, having hit 16 straight field goals this season.