Dirty Laundry: False starts and chop blocks

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
9:00
AM ET
We're going to look forward and backward this week for Dirty Laundry. Let's look ahead first. Why? Because I feel like it.

It's interesting, at least to me, that the Minnesota Vikings will arrive at Soldier Field this weekend having committed 17 false start penalties in their first eight games. That total puts the Vikings alongside the Oakland Raiders atop the NFL rankings for such miscues.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Vikings couldn't be headed to a worse environment under those circumstances. You might be surprised to know that opponents have committed as many false start penalties this year at Soldier Field (12) than at any other stadium in the NFL. I'm sure part of that total can be attributed to fan volume, but I wonder if it isn't another tangential by-product of defensive end Julius Peppers' presence.

If you were an offensive tackle or tight end, wouldn't you be a bit more focused on Peppers -- and less on the snap count -- than other players?

In case you're looking for likely suspects Sunday, here is the breakdown of the Vikings' false start penalties this season:
Now, to look back. Many of you were outraged Sunday when referee Al Riveron's crew called Detroit Lions left guard Stephen Peterman for two chop blocks in the New York Jets' 23-20 victory.

First, let's get to the general definition of a chop block as stated in the NFL rule book: "A chop block is a foul by the offense in which one offense player (designated as A1 for purposes of this rule) blocks a defensive player in the area of the thigh or lower while another offensive player (A2) occupies that same defensive player."

Indeed, the widely-held understanding of a chop block is one offensive lineman cut-blocking a defensive lineman while another blocks him above the waist. It's a dangerous approach that can lead to the defensive lineman getting twisted unnaturally and injured.

On both occasions Sunday, Peterman (A1) cut-blocked Jets defensive lineman Shaun Ellis while a second Lions offensive lineman (A2) -- right tackle Gosder Cherilus on the first and center Dominic Raiola on the second -- stood nearby but did not engage.

Unfortunately for the Lions, that play falls under a secondary section of the chop block rule known as the "lure." (Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press pointed out the explanation earlier this week.) Here is how that scenario is worded: "On a forward pass play, A1 chops a defensive player while A2 confronts the defensive player in a pass-blocking posture but is not physically engaged with the defensive player (a 'lure')."

The NFL seemed to confirm this interpretation by finding Peterman $10,000. Had the league office found Riveron's call was wrong, no fine would have followed.

I can't say I understand what the purpose of the "lure" rule is, other than to prevent A2 from being a "decoy" while A1 (Peterman) does the dirty work. To me, it falls under the category we discussed earlier this season: Too many rules in the rule book make for a, pardon the pun, choppy game.

If I'm a Lions' fan, I'm more outraged that Riveron didn't call a face mask penalty against Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie at the end of the second chop-block play. Cromartie spun receiver Bryant Johnson to the ground by twisting his face mask. At best, there should have been off-setting penalties and a replay of third down.

Now, on to our updated challenge tracker:

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