During ESPN’s broadcast of Monday Night Footballbetween the Las Vegas Raiders and Detroit Lions, there was a debatable intentional grounding penalty that wasn’t called against the Lions on the game’s opening drive. The NFL’s senior Vice President of officiating, Walt Anderson, was called in during the live game to explain why no penalty was committed.
In instances like this, ESPN usually calls upon their rules analyst John Parry to break down the play and what the refs may or may not have seen during the play that resulted in their decision. However, Anderson appeared lived from the NFL headquarters to weigh in on the matter and his analysis conflicted with the real-time explanation made by Parry during the broadcast.
According to Anderson, the rules “allow a lot of flexibility,” for quarterbacks looking to get rid of the ball to avoid taking a sack or committing a turnover. Anderson went on to mention that Lions running back Jahmyr Gibbs was in the “direction and vicinity” of the ball thrown by quarterback Jared Goff, validating the notion that no flag was thrown.
However, the rule states that “It is a foul for intentional grounding if a passer facing an imminent loss of yardage because of pressure from the defense, throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion.”
While deeming a forward pass as having a realistic chance of completion can be subjective, the rules state that “A realistic chance of completion is defined as a pass that is thrown in the direction of and lands in the vicinity of an eligible offensive receiver.”
Goff’s pass was thrown in the direction of Gibbs, but the pass deeming that the pass landed in his vicinity is questionable.
It will be interesting to see if Anderson makes more appearances throughout the season.