|Polamalu slapped a loose ball into the Patriots' end zone. Turns out: you can't do that. (US PRESSWIRE)|
Posted by Ryan Wilson
The Steelers may have dominated the Patriots for 59 minutes and 41 seconds Sunday, but Tom Brady has a knack of pulling out improbable victories, and his history in Pittsburgh has been impressive. So when he took the field with 19 seconds left and the Pats trailing by six, the game wasn't over.
That became official some six seconds later, after defensive end Brett Keisel stripped Brady and Troy Polamalu knocked the loose ball into the end zone for a New England safety.
But here's the thing: when Polamalu sprinted from his centerfield position to make a play on Brady's fumble, he punched the ball a good 20 yards into the Pats' end zone. That's illegal.
Polamalu's heads-up play was also against the rules.
Via the Associated Press: The rule states that a player may not bat or punch a loose ball in the field of play toward the opponent's goal line; a loose ball that has touched the ground in any direction, if it is in either end zone; or a backward pass in flight, which can't be batted forward by an offensive player."
The call is not reviewable by video replay, though neither Tom Brady nor the Patriots sideline complained at the time. And even if the penalty had been assessed, it would've been 10 yards from the spot of the infraction. Which means New England would've had the ball on their own 25-yard line with about 12 seconds on the clock and no timeouts.
Given that the Pats don't have a deep threat on the roster, and Brady's longest pass to that point went for 23 yards to tight end Rob Gronkowski, we feel confident in writing that the outcome was unaffected. Plus, it afforded us the opportunity to see kicker Stephen Gostkowski drop-kick the ensuing onside kick clear out of bounds.
Polamalu was asked about the play after the game, and he channelled Costanza before answering.
"Whatever is going to get me in trouble, he said. "I'm saying the opposite."
Nothing to worry about, Troy. The NFL doesn't believe in frivolous fines.
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