NFC West: Jerome Boger

Boger gets high marks from his doubter

February, 4, 2013
2/04/13
10:10
AM ET
NEW ORLEANS -- The officiating website footballzebras.com made headlines before Super Bowl XLVII by questioning Jerome Boger's appointment to the game as referee.

Despite complaints from San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, Boger and his crew members got high marks from the website for their handling of the game.

Footballzebras.com founder Ben Austro's only significant complaint was for failing to limit post-play antics. Austro thought the Ravens' Cary Williams should have been ejected for shoving an official. But the interference and holding penalties Harbaugh wanted called against Baltimore during the game's frantic final moments did not represent errors in officiating, according to the website.

"When a receiver runs a route right at a defensive back and bumps him, there is an acceptable amount of holding that does happen, because the receiver initiated the holding," Austro wrote. "In this case, there was mutual pushing, so it all waves off. There needed to be a more egregious restriction of the receiver in order to draw a foul."

Former NFL officiating boss Mike Pereira, now a Fox analyst, also supported the non-call in that situation. My own view was that throwing a flag would have been worse than not throwing one. The play was still frustrating from a 49ers standpoint. Anyone in Harbaugh's situation would have wanted a call as well.

"Together, it was an even-called game," Austro wrote. "The points of disagreement were true judgment calls; there wasn’t anything that really moved out of a gray area throughout the game."

A closer look at Super Bowl referee

January, 30, 2013
1/30/13
8:50
PM ET
NEW ORLEANS -- Jerome Boger is the referee assigned to work Super Bowl XLVII.

Don't yawn just yet.

The NFL's handling of the assignment, while already under unprecedented scrutiny, will become a much bigger story if an officiating miscue influences the outcome between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

Boger's assignment to the game has generated controversy amid accusations the NFL reversed eight negative marks from his report card.

The implication, spelled out by the officiating website footballzebras.com, is that the NFL went out of its way to assign Boger to the game in the interests of promoting racial diversity. The NFL has denied this happened.

Footballzebras.com has taken officiating coverage to new levels in a short period of time. We're left wondering to what degree the Boger report reflects legitimate concerns or sour grapes from anonymously quoted officials feeling jilted over their own standing within the officiating hierarchy.

Whatever the case, Boger finds himself under unusual pregame scrutiny through no fault of his own. He worked the 49ers' divisional-round victory over Green Bay without incident. He previously worked three other divisional-round games. He has never worked a conference championship game or Super Bowl.

As we noted back in October, Boger's crews have called a league-high number of holding penalties against interior defensive linemen. That was notable at the time because New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride had recently suggested 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith "gets away with murder" by holding opponents to free up outside linebacker Aldon Smith for sacks.

Boger's crew has called a league-high 18 holding penalties against defensive linemen since 2008. That is about triple the average and six more than runner-up Ed Hocholi's crew. Boger's crew called zero such penalties this season, however. Crew tendencies can be difficult to discern because officals work a relatively small number of games. Also, regular-season trends might not hold up because the NFL shifts to all-star crews for the playoffs.

The first chart shows where Boger's crew has ranked in number of penalties called over the past three seasons. The NFL has maintained 17 crews. I've singled out a few choice penalties for display in the chart. The row showing personal fouls reflects calls labeled as unsportsmanlike conduct, unnecessary roughness and general personal fouls. Other 15-yard penalties are not included.

Boger's crew members called many of the penalties listed in the chart, of course. Referees are primarily responsible for roughing-the-passer and some holding calls. The NFL spells out each official's responsibilities on its website.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Jerome Boger is the referee assigned to the San Francisco 49ers' divisional-round playoff game against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday.

Boger is working with an all-star crew, customary for the playoffs. Regular-season crew tendencies might not apply as much.

With an assist from ESPN Stats & Information, I've put together a chart showing 49ers games Boger has worked over the years.

Boger worked the 49ers' memorable 27-24 defeat at Minnesota in 2009. Brett Favre's late touchdown pass, not the officiating, made that one memorable.

Last season, Boger's crew negated a Michael Crabtree touchdown at Cincinnati, ruling that the receiver had stepped out of bounds. The call was questionable, in my view, and former officiating director Mike Pereira agreed. Also in that game, Boger called a false-start penalty against "the entire offensive line" of the 49ers.

More recently, Boger was the ref for the 49ers' 45-3 victory against Buffalo.

A confusing judgment call favoring the New York Giants enabled their comeback victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 4.

Was Giants receiver Victor Cruz really down when he lost the football late in the game? A fumble in that situation likely would have killed the Giants' chances for a comeback.

Who knows, an Arizona victory might have changed the course of NFL history given that the Giants later sneaked into the playoffs with a 9-7 record, then won a Super Bowl title.

Would they have been a postseason team at all without that victory? Tough to tell, and irrelevant now.

[+] EnlargeVictor Cruz
Chris Morrison/US PRESSWIREVictor Cruz was ruled down on this fourth-quarter play, nullifying a recovered fumble by Arizona in a game it lost 31-27.
But the issue relating to the Cruz play lives on. The NFL apparently had that situation and a few others from NFC West teams' games in mind when identifying officiating points of interest for the 2012 season.

Those points, distributed during the recently concluded NFL owners meetings in West Palm Beach, Fla, covered blows to the head, horse-collar tackles, sportsmanship/taunting, pre-snap movement, player alignment, runners declaring themselves down and deceptive substitutions.

I'll single out a few of them in relation to memorable plays from games involving NFC West teams.

Runners declaring themselves down

Memorable plays: Victor Cruz's non-fumble at Arizona after referee Jerome Boger determined Cruz had given himself up, ending the play. Later in the season, the Seattle Seahawks' Adrian Moten and Michael Robinson sandwiched San Francisco 49ers returner Kyle Williams after Williams went to the ground untouched, then popped up. The league later fined Moten for a late hit. Referee Ron Winter penalized Robinson for a helmet-to-helmet hit, but the absence of an accompanying fine indicated the NFL did not fault Robinson for his behavior on the play.

The issue: Were Cruz and Williams down? When is a runner down, anyway? And if they're obviously down, shouldn't officials blow their whistles?

Point of emphasis, from the NFL: "Rule 7, Section 1, Article 1 states that the ball is dead and the down ended if, among other items, a runner 'declares himself down by falling to the ground, or kneeling, and making no effort to advance.' This sometimes leads to confusion when a runner goes to the ground and is slow to rise to his feet. Has he 'declared himself down,' in which case the covering official should blow his whistle and further defensive contact is prohibited? Or is he merely slow to get to his feet, for whatever reason, in which case a defender needs to touch him to end the down?

"The Committee does not believe that there should be any change in the rule itself, but believes that education of players, coaches, and officials should eliminate any ambiguity. The proper application of the rule, that a runner who goes to the ground untouched will be considered to have declared himself down if he does not make an immediate attempt to advance, will be emphasized to officials prior to the 2012 season."

Pre-snap movement

Memorable plays: Referee Gene Steratore and crew flagged 49ers tight end Justin Peelle for a false start on a fourth-and-1 play against the Washington Redskins. Coach Jim Harbaugh disputed the call. The 49ers periodically used sudden movement by their tight ends, ostensibly to reset the formation. Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton called the tactics "cute" (see final note here) after the 49ers drew the New York Giants offside.

The issue: Were the 49ers simulating a snap or making a legitimate adjustment to their formations?

Point of emphasis, from the NFL: The Committee reviewed video of pre-snap movement by offensive players and agreed that special emphasis should be devoted to acts that are clearly in violation of the existing rule for false starts. Prior to a snap, any quick, abrupt movement by an offensive player, or several offensive players in unison, which simulates the start of a play, is a foul.

"These acts include (a) a quarterback in shotgun formation thrusting his hands forward in an exaggerated manner when there is not a simultaneous snap, (b) abrupt movement of the ball by the center, (c) abrupt movement of the center’s head or other body part, and (d) a quick abrupt shift by two or more players in unison. Non-abrupt movement that is part of normal pre-snap action will not be prohibited, including pointing and signaling among offensive players."

Deceptive substitutions

Memorable plays: The 49ers tricked the St. Louis Rams with a touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree on a fake field-goal attempt. Crabtree went toward the sideline as if leaving the field, but he stayed on the field and was uncovered near the sideline. The play was deemed legal.

The issue: Undetermined. I do not know whether the following point of emphasis applies to how the 49ers used Crabtree in this example. This one requires more investigation. I'll include the point of emphasis here, then follow up when I have more information. League officials are returning from the meetings Wednesday. Update: This point of emphasis does not affect the 49ers' tactics against St. Louis. That play is still legal.

Point of emphasis, from the NFL: "The Committee addressed the concern that some teams are abusing established substitution rules in a deliberate attempt to confuse opponents. Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1(k) of the Playing Rules clearly states that 'using entering substitutes, legally returning players, substitutes on sidelines, or withdrawn players to confuse opponents' is unsportsmanlike conduct. The Committee reminds clubs that this practice has no part in our game, and officials will be instructed to closely watch for violations of the rule.

"The Committee also reviewed the procedures for an offensive player who comes into the game wearing a number that does not qualify him for the position he takes. These players must report to the Referee, prior to entering the huddle. The Referee and Umpire will then report the same to the defensive team. This rule prevails whether a player is already in the game or is an entering substitute and whether it is a play from scrimmage, an attempted field goal, or a try after a touchdown. If a player fails to report his change in eligibility, it will result in a five-yard penalty for illegal substitution."

Open mike: No fine for Harvey Dahl's rant

December, 23, 2011
12/23/11
4:15
PM ET
Personal-foul penalties from NFC West games in Week 15 produced one fine: $15,000 against Cincinnati's Chris Crocker for a helmet-to-helmet hit on St. Louis Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens.

The most memorable play from that game involved referee Jerome Boger's microphone relaying Rams guard Harvey Dahl's profane protest over loudspeakers in the Edward Jones Dome. Boger called Dahl for holding, then added a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct after the microphone mixup.

Other personal fouls against the Rams -- two against Chris Chamberlain, one against James Butler and one against Eugene Sims -- did not draw fines. Failing to levy fines for personal fouls can indicate the league did not see violations.

Boger and crew called five personal fouls against the Rams and one against the Bengals. Boger was back at work Thursday night and was particularly active in flagging the Houston Texans during the final minutes of their defeat to Indianapolis.
San Francisco officials are running a power sweep at Candlestick Park after the stadium went dark twice during the 49ers' recent victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury News has the details from Mayor Ed Lee: "Investigators have known the first outage shortly before kickoff was caused when the main power line that feeds the stadium broke. Now, Lee said an investigation by state utilities officials and city fire inspectors showed the second outage at the beginning of the second quarter was caused by a malfunctioning switch on the stadium's backup power system. Lee said officials expect to start replacing the switch Friday and should have the work completed by the middle of next week. He said officials will test the new equipment before putting it into use."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says cold weather in Seattle and concerns about having Patrick Willis ready for the playoffs could lead to the 49ers giving Willis' injured hamstring additional recovery time. Maiocco: "With temperature at Qwest Field expected to be in the mid-40s with showers in the forecast, the 49ers will have to weigh the risk of playing Willis when Larry Grant has done a good job in his absence. The 49ers want Willis healthy for the playoffs." Noted: Willis returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday. It's unlikely the team would rush him back into a game situation only two days after Willis returned on a limited basis. It's an upset if Willis plays Saturday.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams guard Harvey Dahl has become a bit of an online sensation after referee Jerome Boger's microphone caught Dahl using choice language while disputing a holding call Sunday. Thomas: "Although what transpired Sunday wasn't exactly what the Rams had in mind when they signed him to a four-year, $16 million free-agent contract from Atlanta on July 31, they did want an offensive lineman with toughness and attitude. And that's what Dahl has delivered this season." Noted: The call did seem pretty weak, although the replay angle I saw did not allow for a clear view of the play. Boger also made questionable calls while working the Houston-Indianapolis game Thursday night.

Also from Thomas: Sam Bradford almost certainly will not play against the Steelers in Week 16.

Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Steven Jackson is looking forward to his first career game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Jackson needs 34 yards to reach 1,000 for the season. Nelson: "Jackson would join elite company. The only other backs to reach the milestone seven consecutive times are Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Thurman Thomas, Eric Dickerson, Curtis Martin and LaDainian Tomlinson." Noted: Jackson figures to reach 1,000 even though the Rams face two tough run defenses to close the season. They return from Pittsburgh to face the 49ers in the final game of the regular season.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com previews the pending matchup between Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and Bengals receiver A.J. Green. Urban: "In Green’s two games against LSU while Peterson was playing, he had three catches for 89 yards and a touchdown in a Georgia win and five for 99 and a score in a 2009 loss. This year, he already has become the Bengals’ top pass target, catching 61 passes for 1,006 yards and seven touchdowns already. Peterson, who has been hooking up against the opponents’ top receivers for a few games now, figures to shadow his former college nemesis."

Also from Urban: Calais Campbell's dominance is easy to see despite his role as a 3-4 defensive end. Urban: "Campbell is third on the Cardinals in tackles -- 65, trailing the 89 of both Paris Lenon and Daryl Washington, linebackers -- an impressive feat for any defensive lineman. He leads the team in sacks with seven. His nine passes defenses (nothing like a good knockdown at the line of scrimmage) is by far the most of any player who doesn’t play in the secondary. And his 10 tackles for loss is second only to Washington’s 13."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says he'll be "very surprised" if Kevin Kolb starts at quarterback against the Bengals even though coach Ken Whisenhunt isn't saying much.

Also from Somers: Adrian Wilson broke a recent boycott of local reporters.

More from Somers: Second-year outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield has made significant strides.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks are getting big results from their big secondary. O'Neil: "Seattle has 21 interceptions this season, already its most in any season since 2004. The secondary has accounted for all but five of those picks, and of the five turnovers Seattle forced in Chicago last week, the secondary produced four of them. The Seahawks have the youngest secondary in the NFL. They might also have the most unlikely. One starting cornerback played the past four years in Canada. That would be the 6-foot-4 Brandon Browner, and all he's done is become the first Seahawk since Eugene Robinson in 1991 to intercept a pass in four consecutive games. Then there's Richard Sherman, who's 6-3. He's a rookie who was catching passes up until three years ago at Stanford, not defending them."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com offers post-practice notes, including result from a locker room dance-off between Sherman and defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove. Sherman: "I am definitely claiming victory. I put a couple of things on tape that he was unable to match. He put a lot of good plays out there with the ‘wheel chair.’ He pulled out all the stops. It was an incredibly impressive effort from a 300-pounder."

NFC West penalty watch: Refs and roughing

November, 5, 2011
11/05/11
10:30
AM ET
The 2011 Official Playing Rules and Casebook of the National Football League devotes 1,127 words to the section on roughing the passer.

Twenty-two words near the end sum up the spirit:
"If in doubt about a roughness call or potentially dangerous tactic on the quarterback, the referee should always call roughing the passer."

That sentence pretty much absolves referees from blame for penalizing acts that seem to be borderline infractions.

We discussed one such penalty against the Arizona Cardinals' Calais Campbell earlier.

Campbell leads the NFC West in roughing-the-passer penalties since 2009 with three. Teammate Clark Haggans, the San Francisco 49ers' Ahmad Brooks, the Seattle Seahawks' Raheem Brock and ex-Seahawk Patrick Kerney have two apiece since then.

Instead of focusing on players, I've put together a chart showing how many roughing calls each of the 17 current referees has called since 2009. Note that Clete Blakeman was not a referee until 2010. Officiating crews change members from time to time, but the referees are the ones responsible for most roughing calls, so these numbers hold up better.

Some referees call more penalties than others overall. Some have surely encountered more instances of roughing than others. But if you're a defensive end eager to mete out some old-school punishment on the opposing quarterback, it wouldn't hurt to know which referee was working the game that day.
.
The NFL released the following explanation for referee Jerome Boger's ruling that New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz did not fumble against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 4:
"In Sunday’s game between the New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals, the Giants faced a 1st-and-10 from the Arizona 48 with 3:10 remaining in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Eli Manning connected with wide receiver Victor Cruz for a 19-yard gain.

"Referee Jerome Boger announced the following: 'The ruling on the previous play was that the receiver gave himself up by going to the ground. That cannot be challenged. So there is no challenge allowed by Arizona. It is first down, New York.'

"The applicable rule in the 2011 NFL Rule Book is found on page 35.

"Rule 7, Section 2, Article 1 states that 'An official shall declare the ball dead and the down ended: (e): when a runner is out of bounds, or declares himself down by falling to the ground, or kneeling, and making no effort to advance.' "

This is a judgment call, in other words. There is no specific set of requirements a runner must satisfy when declaring himself down. That means a runner can be declared down even if he slips to the ground, provided the referee thinks the runner meant to declare himself down on the play.

Cue the video to see the play.

Around the NFC West: Referee's fumble?

October, 3, 2011
10/03/11
9:40
AM ET
The ruling referee Jerome Boger made on the New York Giants' non-fumble interests me more in the short term than rehashing the Arizona Cardinals' third defeat in a row.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com provides a helpful link to a replay and says he finds the call "even more egregious" upon review. Noted: I thought Giants receiver Victor Cruz gave himself up on the play, but only after he had slipped. Why else would he flip the ball forward and move back toward the huddle? It was almost as though Cruz decided to give himself up once he slipped and was headed for the grass. This was not a typical fumble, but should it have been ruled one anyway? The question I have revolves around whether a runner can declare himself down after slipping and then flipping the ball forward. What criteria must be met for a runner to declare himself down? The rules do say the ball is dead "when a runner is out of bounds, or declares himself down by falling to the ground, or kneeling, and making no effort to advance." Cruz did fall to the ground, but it might not have been intentional. He did make no effort to advance. Does that make him down? Yes, according to the NFL, which put out a statement saying referees make judgment calls in these situations, and Boger judged Cruz to have been down.

Also from Urban: Darnell Dockett voices confidence in the team and says the Cardinals just need to find ways to finish games. Dockett: "Everybody is going to point fingers and say we’re not good and all that. But I am confident with this team. I will take this team anywhere, any place, any time. We just have to find a way to finish. It’s one thing when you go into a game and you don’t have a clue and you’re getting beat from the start. That’s not the case. We have to find a way to finish. And we will do that."

Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic says the pressure is on Kevin Kolb to produce.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offers thoughts on various aspects of the Cardinals' performance, including this one on Kolb: "To me, Kevin Kolb doesn't look like he has a feel for the pocket, or for this offensive line yet. I think he can do a better job of moving a step or two in the pocket to buy himself time. I saw Kurt Warner improve greatly in this area, but it took a year or so of work. Kolb is mobile, but it looks like he's trying to figure out how to use that mobility. It's possible he and his receivers need to get a better feel for each other, too. Maybe the receivers don't have an idea of how to move to get open for Kolb when the QB is on the move."
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Referee Jerome Boger's ruling that New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz had declared himself down, and therefore had not fumbled, produced confusion Sunday.

The Arizona Cardinals had not touched Cruz following his fourth-quarter reception during the Giants' go-ahead drive. Cruz went down, then flipped the ball forward as if the play had ended. A turnover in that situation might have proved pivotal to the outcome, but Boger ruled Cruz down and said the play could not be challenged.

The 2011 NFL rulebook outlines several conditions for a dead ball, including:
  • "When a runner declares himself down by sliding feet first on the ground. The ball is dead the instant the runner touches the ground with anything other than his hands or his feet; or ... when a runner is out of bounds, or declares himself down by falling to the ground, or kneeling, and making no effort to advance."

Cruz did seem to be declaring himself down when he flipped the ball forward, but he did not slide feet first to the ground, and there was some question as to whether he had satisfied all conditions for declaring himself down or had simply stumbled on the play.

Fox analyst Mike Pereira, former NFL officiating director, said he thought the play should have been ruled a fumble because Cruz had stumbled.

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said his team's 31-27 defeat never should have come down to such a play. He also wasn't certain how the rule should have been applied to that situation. Cruz gained 19 yards on the play. The Giants took the lead with a 29-yard touchdown pass on the next play.
Todd Heap caught 10 passes for 108 yards for Baltimore in the playoffs last season.

The Arizona Cardinals could use that type of production from a tight end. After drafting Rob Housler and signing Jeff King from Carolina in free agency, the team added to its growing stockpile by reaching a contract agreement with Heap, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported. The team also announced the agreement.

Heap
Heap, 31, was informally connected to Arizona in trade speculation back when the Cardinals were looking to trade receiver Anquan Boldin. Arizona was a natural fit for Heap, who is from Mesa and played at Arizona State.

Cardinals fans should remember Arizona's 2007 trip to Baltimore featuring Adrian Wilson's huge hit on Heap during the game's pivotal moments. Officials flagged Wilson for unnecessary roughness, helping the Ravens move into position for the winning field goal. Replays showed the hit to be legal. The NFL levied no fine against Wilson.

"We had an airborne receiver hit by a defender, who we called launched into him, and he had a blow above the shoulders into the head area," referee Jerome Boger said at the time.

The Ravens released Heap and other veteran players in moves that cleared room under the salary cap. Instead of re-signing at a lower price, Heap is heading home. Having Heap, King and Housler in combination gives the Cardinals fresh potential at a position the team has not emphasized in recent seasons.

But with receiver Steve Breaston departing in free agency and the team adding second-round draft choice Ryan Williams to a crowded backfield, Arizona might be less inclined to feature four-receiver personnel groupings as frequently. At the very least, the potential is there for diversification.
An end-of-season look at where NFL officiating crews rank in a few categories where discretion and controversy tend to apply, listed by referee (with Walt Coleman scheduled to work Seattle's wild-card game Sunday):

The second chart breaks down defensive pass-interference numbers by crew for the last three seasons.

The next chart breaks down offensive pass interference by crew for the 2010 season only.
Note that Coleman's crew has called only one such penalty this season, second-fewest in the league behind Seattle favorite Bill Leavy.

The next chart breaks down the offensive pass-interference calls by crew for the last three seasons.

The final chart shows three-year totals for roughing the passer, by crew.

Seattle fans might remember the controversial roughing penalty against Seahawks defensive end Raheem Brock during the team's defeat at New Orleans in Week 11.

The pivotal play did not draw a fine, tacit admission that referee Mike Carey's crew erred on the call.

Coleman's crews have only four roughing calls over the last three seasons, fewest in the league among referees working continuously since 2008.

Note: All info from ESPN Stats & Information and includes declined penalties.

Under the microscope: 15 little things

December, 16, 2010
12/16/10
5:17
PM ET
Fifteen little things I noticed while watching NFC West teams play in Week 14:
  • Referee Jerome Boger suffered two replay reversals during the Arizona game. I thought his crew should have flagged Denver Broncos tight end Daniel Graham for a facemask penalty to end Michael Adams' interception return. Speaking of Adams, he's all over the place, including on special teams.
  • Cardinals rookie linebackers Daryl Washington and O'Brien Schofield caught my attention. Washington had close to a breakout game. He hit hard on defense, picked off a pass and downed a punt at the Denver 3.
  • What's with all the dropped passes, Arizona? The Cardinals are strong at receiver, but that group is failing to make the routine plays, let alone the big ones Arizona needs to spark its offense. Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet dropped passes early in the game Sunday. Fullback Jason Wright dropped one, too.
  • Quarterbacks sometimes look silly trying to make blocks. Arizona's John Skelton looked good cracking back on Broncos linebacker Jason Hunter during Breaston's reverse. Separately, Skelton showed good athleticism for a big quarterback when he avoided the initial rush, stayed on his feet by touching one hand to the ground, escaped outside and cut up the sideline for extra yardage. Skelton wasn't particularly fluid, but he moved effectively.
  • Darnell Dockett can't get a break on the health front. He tried to pummel Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno on one play, only to miss high and suffer a head-on collision with 330-pound teammate Dan Williams. Dockett, slowed by shoulder issues this season, including stinger issues, was clearly hurting after this play.
  • Fitzgerald and Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey went after one another with vigor. Bailey drew offensive interference against Fitzgerald on one play. Fitzgerald drove Bailey 13 yards downfield while blocking for Tim Hightower's 11-yard run on third-and-5.
  • St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford took a beating against New Orleans. His offensive line held up OK for the most part, however. The Saints got pressure by freeing defenders via effective blitz calls. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma sneaked around the outside on a delayed blitz and hit Bradford's arm hard just as the quarterback was throwing. Bradford easily could have been injured here.
  • Along the same lines, a well-conceived Saints blitz forced Bradford into intentional grounding.
  • Rams left tackle Rodger Saffold shows good athleticism. He pulled across the formation and picked off a linebacker on the other side while springing Steven Jackson for a 10-yard gain in the second quarter.
  • Bradford wasn't solely to blame for the costly interception he threw right before halftime. Saffold set to the outside in pass protection and quickly lost inside leverage against defensive end Will Smith. Smith got immediate pressure on Bradford, affecting the throw. Malcolm Jenkins' 96-yard interception return for a touchdown changed the game.
  • Rams safety Oshiomogho Atogwe is playing aggressively. He'll probably get fined for delivering a clothesline-type hit against the Saints' Reggie Bush. Those types of hits can make offensive players wary.
  • There's still a place for San Francisco 49ers fullback Moran Norris in the 49ers' offense even though quarterback Alex Smith sometimes plays his best without a fullback on the field. Norris dominated individual matchups against Seattle linebackers in the running game. I saw him flatten Lofa Tatupu, drive back David Hawthorne and move out Aaron Curry.
  • 49ers right guard Chilo Rachal still has some troubles, as when Curry beat him for a shot on the quarterback. Rachal did some good things in this game, too. Tatupu got too high on one play and Rachal made the linebacker pay. Rachal lifted Tatupu, drove him onto his back and flopped on him.
  • The Seahawks' injury-induced personnel changes on offense cost the team sometimes. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck spent extra time getting players lined up right before taking a third-and-2 sack in the second quarter.
  • The rushing numbers weren't there for Seattle's Marshawn Lynch -- he's not going to make big plays on his own when the holes aren't there -- but there's a lot to like about how he plays. I saw him make positive contributions in pass protection, as a receiver and as a tone-setter with stiff-arms and high-impact collisions. Not many players at any position can say they dropped the 49ers' Patrick Willis in a collision both players saw coming. Lynch made it happen in the second quarter.

We're at 15 already. Thanks for the positive feedback on the inaugural "15 little things" item, which ran last week. I'll keep these coming.

Officially speaking: Hochuli's PI calls

November, 18, 2010
11/18/10
4:12
PM ET
With apologies to St. Louis Rams fans trying to forget about the costly pass-interference call against safety Oshiomogho Atogwe in Week 10, I'll pass along stats showing interference calls by officiating crew.

Referee Ed Hochuli's crew worked the Rams' game in Week 10. His crews have called the most penalties of any kind over the last three seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information. His crews rank tied for the most defensive pass interference calls.

The Rams might have picked the wrong officiating crew to tempt with a close call on interference. They might have had a better chance if, say, John Parry's crew were working their game. Parry's crew was off in Week 10, but it has called 15 defensive pass interference penalties since the 2009 opener, compared to 14 for Hochuli's crew this season alone.

Officials are calling more penalties per game overall and more for defensive pass interference, as the final row of the chart indicates.

Officially speaking: Roughing the passer

October, 1, 2010
10/01/10
11:33
AM ET
The NFL is increasingly concerned with protecting quarterbacks.

Sometimes that concern makes it tough for a defensive player to carry out his job aggressively. Sometimes a borderline roughing-the-passer penalty can influence a game's outcome.

When the St. Louis Rams' Oshiomogho Atogwe and Fred Robbins drew roughing-the-passer penalties during a 16-14 defeat at Oakland in Week 2, the plays wound up factoring into the outcome significantly. The foul against Atogwe sustained a Raiders drive to a field goal. The foul against Robbins, which seemed like a borderline call from the Rams' perspective, allowed Oakland to run out the clock.

What if Robbins in particular had known that the referee that day, Tony Corrente, called far more roughing penalties than some of his peers? Might Robbins have backed off instead of giving Raiders quarterback Bruce Gradkowski a little shove? I'll try to ask Robbins Sunday following the Rams' game against Seattle.

It's entirely possible the referees with more roughing calls witnessed more cases of roughing. It's also reasonable to think referees apply slightly different standards when determining whether to call roughing the passer. Crews associated with Corrente and Ed Hochuli call more non-roughing penalties than other referees, so it's no surprise to see them near the top of the list for roughing, too. Al Riveron ranks tied for first in roughing calls and 10th in non-roughing penalties since 2008.

The chart, put together with information provided by Hank Gargiulo of ESPN Stats & Information, shows how many roughing-the-passer penalties each referee's crew has called (including declined penalties) over the last three seasons. Note that Clete Blakeman is a first-year referee. The others listed have worked as referees since at least 2008.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider