Sometimes when there’s a tough call in a game, you frame the reaction by thinking how you yourself would respond.

Case in point – Thursday night against the Vikings, when Justin Jefferson lost the ball reaching for the pylon, resulting in a touch back and loss of possession. That non-score would have put Minnesota up 14-10, but instead the Eagles took the ball and nicked a 61-yard field goal to extend the lead to 13-7 going into halftime.

If that happened to an Eagles player, we’d probably be HOWLING about the injustice of the touchback rule. But it didn’t happen to us, it happened to them, and this was a crucial turning point in the game that swung momentum back to the Birds:

Minnesota head coach Kevin O’Connell:

“They looked at that and basically said it was possession and then clearly with the reach it counted as a football move. My hope is that it wasn’t over the pylon. I thought until we saw that last angle, from where I was standing, it did not look like it went over the pylon. I think they were able to confirm that it did. We just have to continue to emphasize decision making techniques and fundamentals, as far as the ball carriers go. Like I said, Justin is just trying to make a play in that moment and the hardest thing to do is to get a guy not to reach the ball out when they are that close to scoring a touchdown in a critical moment.”

Nobody is disputing that this should be punished. It’s a question of whether or not the punishment fits the crime. You lose possession of the ball despite the defense not recovering. Then the opponent gets to begin their possession on their own 20. Is that fair? Maybe, maybe not, but people sure have a lot of opinions on this.

If there’s a middle ground compromise, perhaps in this case the Vikings could:

  • retain possession, but be penalized 10 or 15 yards
  • maybe you just wave the play dead with a loss of down, and they pick up from where they last snapped the ball (in this case, 3rd and 10 from the Eagles’ 31)
  • treat it like a kickoff going out of bounds – choose an arbitrary spot (like the Eagles’ 20), and pick it up from there

We’re spitballing here. Obviously there’s a risk and reward to all of this. If a guy tries to reach across the goal line, and loses the ball, and the defense recovers, so be it. You have to protect the ball, and you failed. But in cases like this one, there is no recovery by the other team, so why do they get possession? How many other infractions are punished by an automatic loss of possession? None that I can think of off the top of my head.

One thing we can say, unequivocally, is that “rules are rules” is a heaping pile of horseshit/nothing response. Any retort amounting to “it’s always been this way” answers absolutely nothing. We are asking WHY this rule is in place, and if it’s fair. Same discussions we had about NFL overtime. People love to say “well just play defense” or “don’t fumble out the back of the end zone,” but we’re not arguing WITHIN the existing parameters, we are asking if the parameters should be CHANGED.

Thank you.