In this week's "Ask the Ref" column, Tom Higgins explains the "interference on a loose ball" rule:
On the said play, Toronto returner Chad Owens mishandled a punt, the loose ball bounced into the end zone, and the Bombers appeared to recover it for a huge touchdown.
However, Owens had been unable to attempt to recover his fumble because a member of the Winnipeg cover team tackled him well after the ball came loose. The Bombers were penalized for "interference on a loose ball", their touchdown was nullified, and Toronto was awarded possession of the ball.
The rule book clearly states: "A player shall not deliberately interfere with an opponent attempting to recover a loose ball following a blocked kick, a dribbled ball, a fumble or a wild snap from the centre, an offside pass, an onside kick and a kick that does not cross the line of scrimmage."
Typically, a ball carrier fumbles as he is tackled, the ball comes loose, and the tackler finishes his tackle. There is also the case of incidental contact as players from opposing teams scramble to recover a loose ball.
In these circumstances, it is tough for an official to conclude that deliberate interference took place. But on the play Saturday night, the Bomber player made no attempt whatsoever to recover the ball as he instead grabbed Owens and pulled him to the ground, preventing Owens from making a play on the ball.
There is no doubt that it was a huge call in the game, but it was such a clear case of "interference on a loose ball". I also have no doubt Andre Proulx's crew made the right call.
That's great. But as someone pointed out on this board at the time, when Chris Williams fumbled into the end zone in Winnipeg on August 27, he was clearly pushed down from behind by a Bomber player after he got up and attempted to recover the ball. As Higgins himself explains, that should have led to a Winnipeg penalty. I assume we would have retained possession on the one.
Might have made a difference in the outcome of the game - in which case we'd be locked in a 3-way tie for 1st instead of 4 points back.
See the play at the 4:45 mark of this video:
Why do sour grapes take so long to digest? (at least a month, apparently)