Why a pivotal play didn't produce penalty


The Arizona Cardinals' ability to bounce back from a devastating fourth-quarter interception has made that pick a footnote to their 4-0 start.

One aspect of the play lingered in my mind.

Miami Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith shoved Larry Fitzgerald out of the end zone before picking off Kevin Kolb's pass. Arizona was at the 2-yard line. Rules for illegal contact appeared to apply. But as Fitzgerald pointed out after the game, those rules lapse when the quarterback leaves the pocket, as Kolb did on a designed rollout.

"If the quarterback leaves the pocket area with the ball in his possession, the restrictions on illegal contact and illegal cut block both end, but the restriction on defensive holding remains in effect," the rulebook states.

Fitzgerald knew the rule. Smith had shoved Fitzgerald after Kolb left the pocket and before Kolb threw the ball. It was a heady play by Smith.

"I should've just fallen down to let Kevin know I fell out of bounds and I wasn't eligible anymore," he said after the game. "It was a tough play ... but our team showed a lot of resolve."