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Thursday, November 15, 2012
NFC West penalty watch: Live, don't learn

By Mike Sando

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford appeared to complete a routine pass to Austin Pettis during a Week 4 game against the Seattle Seahawks.

There was one problem. The Rams had more than seven players on the line of scrimmage. As a result, only the outermost players on each side of the formation were eligible receivers. Pettis had lined up in the slot. Brandon Gibson lined up outside him, on the line.

"Illegal formation, offense," referee Mike Carey announced. "No. 11 [Gibson] covered up No. 18 [Pettis], making him ineligible. It's a 5-yard penalty."

Fox analyst Ron Pitts followed up by saying, "Brandon Gibson, mental error."

The play quickly faded into the background as the game continued and the Rams eventually won, 19-13.

Six weeks later, on a November Sunday at Candlestick Park, the Rams lined up on offense for the first play of overtime. Quarterback Sam Bradford threw deep for Danny Amendola, connecting for an 80-yard gain. The Rams were suddenly in position to score the winning touchdown. Their sideline erupted in celebration.

There was one problem. The Rams had only six players on the line of scrimmage, one fewer than required.

Gibson, the receiver lined up wide to the left, was 2 yards off the ball. This time, he needed to be on the line. Officials flagged the Rams for an illegal formation. The 80-yard pass was negated. The game ended in a tie.

There's a lesson in there somewhere.

As the chart shows, the Rams have committed three penalties for illegal formation this season. That leads the NFC West.