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Ask Jerry Markbreit

During Sunday's Jets-Patriots game, Kerry Rhodes of the Jets was called for defensive pass interference against Randy Moss. Moss appeared to make the catch despite the interference and landed approximately five yards further downfield than where the penalty took place. The Patriots declined the pass interference and accepted the catch. The announcers kept saying that Eric Mangini, the Jets coach, should throw the flag to challenge the catch. If the play had been overturned (meaning Moss was ruled to have not made the catch), would the Patriots then have been allowed to accept the interference call? -- Jim Harmon, East Brunswick, N.J.

If a forward pass is ruled complete and a flag is thrown on the play for defensive pass interference, the offensive team has the option of taking the result of the play if it is beyond the spot of the foul. The penalty for defensive pass interference is an automatic first down at the spot of the foul. If, hypothetically, the catch was challenged under the replay system and the call reversed to an incomplete pass, the offensive team could then take the result of the defensive pass interference, even if they had declined it initially.

In your Oct. 3 column, there was a question regarding the fair catch signal. You stated that the signal is given, the ball is dead when caught by any member of the receiving team. You then stated the exception to this is if the ball hits the ground, the receiver may recover and advance. Isn't the receiver prohibited from advancing except if the ball is touched by a member of the kicking team? -- Bob Floyd, Lynchburg, Va.

You are absolutely correct. The only way the ball can be advanced by the receiving team after a fair catch signal is when the ball is touched by a member of the kicking team. I hope you forgive my mistake.

In an NFL game last weekend, the offense was at midfield, down by two points with one timeout remaining, and less than 10 seconds on the clock. The announcers speculated that the next play could be a pass down the middle of the field with the receiver immediately giving himself up to the defense so that they could call a timeout and have a chance at a field goal. What would happen if the receiver made the catch and took a knee but the defense didn't touch him in an attempt to keep the clock running. Is there any way for the offense to take a knee after a catch and stop the clock so they can immediately take a timeout or would he need to be touched to be considered down? -- Andy Duerkop, Park Ridge, Ill.

An official will declare a dead ball and the down ended when a runner is out-of-bounds, declares himself down by falling to the ground and makes no effort to advance or sliding fee first. The ball is dead at the spot of the ball the instant the runner touches the ground. There are three ways to end the play without the ball carrier being touched by a defender.

If the defense jumps offsides and no contact is made or no one moves, the play is run and the offense decides if they want the play and decline the penalty or accept the five yards. Why can't the same be true for the defense? In the Baltimore-New England game, 4th-and-1, the Pats' right guard pulled early, the Ravens D stops the play behind the line of scrimmage. No play, false start offense, 4th and 6 now and they go on to win. Could it be possible to have the defense DECLINE the false start and take the result of the play? -- Bill Laschober, Dyer, Ind.

From the start of the neutral zone until the snap, no offensive player, if he assumes a set position, shall charge or move in such a way as to simulate the start of a play. This is a false start, and, by rule, it stops play prior to the snap. Even if the ball is snapped before the officials can shut it down when a false start occurs, the play is negated and anything that results from that snap is not counted. The defensive team is not under that type of restriction. If the defense jumps into the neutral zone and causes no reaction from the offense and he successfully retreats behind the line of scrimmage, there is no foul. The defensive team cannot decline a false start and take the result of the play because there is no play -- it was negated by the false start.

I have seen teams, both in college and the NFL, with the lead and possession of the ball in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter (with the game clock running) often do the following: While content to simply run out the clock they proceed to bleed the entire play clock and before it expires they have a false start called against them (either intentionally or unintentionally). In either case, the ball is pushed back five yards, but they get a new play clock (25 seconds at least) and the game clock is re-started. Can't a team with any lead start this process with, say, six minutes remaining and continue to take false starts until the two-minute warning is reached? -- Cos Rao, Toronto, Ontario

The clock will start at the snap after any foul that occurs during the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half. To protect the game from continuous fouls by either team to conserve or consume time, a team is not permitted to conserve time inside one minute of either half by committing any of the following acts: a foul by either team that prevents the snap (false start; encroachment, etc.); intentional grounding; an illegal forward pass thrown from beyond the line; throwing a backward pass out-of-bounds; spiking or throwing the ball in the field of play after a down has ended, except after a touchdown or any other intentional foul that causes the clock to stop. The penalty for illegally conserving time is loss of five yards, unless a larger distance penalty is applicable. Officials will run 10 seconds off the clock before allowing the play to begin. If the action is by the defense, the play clock is reset to 40 seconds and the play clock will start on the ready signal, unless the offensive team elects to have the clock start on the snap. If the defense has timeouts remaining, it will have the option of using a timeout in lieu of the game clock being started.

When is the forward progress rule used? Only when a ball carrier is past the line of scrimmage? Or does it have to do with being forced backwards as opposed to the ball carrier running backwards to try and avoid a tackle, say a kick returner losing yards because he ran backwards to avoid a tackle or a wide receiver losing yards after the catch. Thank you for your time and sharing your knowledge with us football nuts. -- Erik, Chicago

Forward progress is determined by the forward part of the ball in its position when finally declared dead in the field of play. If the runner is allowed to continue after defensive contact and retreats, the forward progress is not established until the play is blown dead; and, at that time, the position of the ball shall be taken as the determining point in measuring any distance gained.

A couple of special teams questions for you. A team is punting from its own one-yard line. The punter fields the snap cleanly but kicks the ball straight up in the air. The ball bounces at the one-yard line and bounces straight backward and out of the end zone. How is this ruled? Or a receiver on a team is the only player who can get his hands on an onside kick, but realizes he can't field it cleanly, so he intentionally bats the ball out of bounds. Is this a penalty? A penalty for kicking out of bounds on the kicking team? Or is it a fumble and the kicking team retains possession? -- Chuck Segall, South Euclid, Ohio

Before giving you the answer to the first scenario, you must understand impetus. Impetus is the action of a player that gives momentum to the ball and sends it into an end zone. The impetus is attributed to the offense, except when the ball is sent into the end zone through a new momentum, when the defense muffs a ball which is at rest or nearly at rest or illegally bats a kick or fumble, a backward pass after it has struck the ground, or illegally kicks any ball. The punt in your play is the impetus that puts the ball out of the kicker's end zone and consequently, a safety is ruled by the officials.

Regarding the second question, the receiving team player is allowed to bat the onside kick out-of-bounds, providing the bat sends the ball toward the receiving team's goal line. Players are not allowed to bat a ball in the field of play toward their opponent's goal line. Once the ball is touched by a receiving team's player, there can be no foul for a free kick out-of-bounds, but once the ball travels 10 yards, whether it is touched by a receiving team player or not, the offensive team may recover and keep the ball.

There is a challenge on a disputed catch near the sideline. The replay from one camera clearly shows that the receiver has possession and control of the ball but you cannot tell if the receiver got his feet in. On a second angle, you can clearly see that the receiver gets both feet in, but you cannot tell from that view if he has control of the ball. Other angles are inconclusive. Can the official use the two different angles to conclude that it's a catch or does the replay official have to see both control and feet in on one view? -- Brian Strock, Denver

Yes, replay may piece together different shots in order to arrive at the correct ruling. This is not uncommon.

In the Packers-Rams game, after a replay, the referee talked to another official, who then wrote something on a card. What information is recorded on these cards and do all the officials have such cards? -- David Englund, Belvidere, Ill.

Once a decision is made on a replay situation, the referee must write down the proper yard line and the proper time under certain circumstances. This information is then used when he makes his announcement explaining the replay decision. All field officials have cards to record the fouls that they call and the unusual plays that occur in their areas, as well as pertinent information pertaining to replay.

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