Run-Off or Not to Run-Off?

As I watched the final moments of the second quarter in Oakland on Saturday, I saw an interesting scenario take place that raised a question in my mind.   A question I asked Lions head coach Jim Schwartz at halftime that went unanswered, so I researched the NFL Rulebook and sought some clarity.

The Raiders were in a two-minute offense, leading Detroit 7-6 and trying to move the ball into field goal territory.  Facing a 2nd and 4 from their own 47, Carson Palmer connected with running back Taiwan Jones for a five-yard gain.  Jones fumbled the ball forward out of bounds with :14 remaining and the officials immediately stopped the clock. 

The Lions sideline erupted, saying the clock should not have been stopped, since the ball was fumbled out of bounds, perhaps intentionally in an effort to save the one remaining timeout Oakland had left in the first half.  

Shortly thereafter, the clock was re-started and the Raiders called their last timeout of the half.  At that point, there were :10 left to play - according to the on-field scoreboard.  

After consulting with each other, the officials put four seconds back on the clock, leaving the Raiders with :14 to play and no timeouts facing 1st and 10 from the Lions 47. 

After running two more plays, the Raiders were positioned for a 56-yard field goal attempt, which Eddy Carmona hit as time expired in the half to make it 10-6 Oakland. 

I was uncertain how the NFL Rulebook read, but I was curious if a forward fumble out of bounds in an attempt to stop the clock in the final minute of the half might result in a 10-second run-off.  If so, it was unlikely the Raiders would have converted a field goal. 

As he walked off the field for halftime, I asked Schwartz if he thought that should have been the case, he offered, "I have no comment on that."

When I returned home, I opened my copy of the NFL Rulebook and researched the topic.  Though it seemed the situation was handled correctly on the field based on what I read, I connected with Mike Pereira, the former VP of Officiating for the NFL and asked him to clarify the rule based on the specifics of the scenario.

Pereira wrote back to me, stating the ball should be returned to the spot of the fumble and the clock should start on the referee's signal. Oakland could use their timeout (which they did).  No 10-second run-off.

Since the ball was initially fumbled with :14 to play, the officials put :04 back on the clock since the Raiders claimed they would have called the timeout immediately had the clock not been stopped by the officials and then re-started.

In the end, the situation was handled correctly by the officials and I have a better understanding of the rules as they relate to forward fumbles out of bounds in the final seconds of a half.


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