In the age of shooting and hyperbole, it’s easy to get swept up in the moment and declare something to be the “worst.” On Thursday night, many people were quick to point out that the Saints might have been hit by the worst penalty of the 2021 NFL season, and… in fact, they might be right on this one.
In the third quarter of New Orleans’ 27-17 loss to Dallas, Saints tight end Garrett Griffin was penalized for a blind block as he tried to protect quarterback Taysom Hill from Cowboys defensive back Jayron Kearse. Hill completed a pass to Deonte Harris for a first down but play was crushed by the flag, which pushed the Saints deep into their own turf. They kicked the ball three games later.
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So what does the NFL consider a blind block? From the league rulebook:
It is a foul if a player initiates a block while his path is towards or parallel to his own backline and makes forced contact with his opponent with his helmet, forearm or shoulder.
Note: It is not a fault for a blind side block if the forced contact occurs in a “closed line play” before the ball leaves that area. The ball is not considered to have left that zone if the player taking the snap, either from a shotgun position or from the center, steps back into the pocket immediately or with a slight delay, and hands the ball to a other player, or run with the ball itself. This exception does not apply to any action other than a designed game. Any forced contact in “close-up online play” is still subject to the block crackback and peel back restrictions.
Saints coach Sean Payton clearly disagreed with Griffin’s interpretation of blocking, as could be seen on the Fox show yelling at anyone wearing stripes.
“It’s a terrible call,” Fox analyst Troy Aikman said. “I don’t blame Sean Payton. Just a terrible call.”
After the game, Payton told reporters he had not received an explanation for the penalty, apparently dodging questions in order to avoid a fine.
“I don’t really know this type of blockage in this situation”, Payton said.
Unlike Payton, not everyone in the NFL Twitterverse held back. Several former NFL players have criticized the officiating team, including longtime offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, who said the blind blocking penalty was the “worst call I have ever had. seen”.
I saw this in real time and noted that maybe I would like to highlight this block tomorrow because it’s awesome.
– Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) December 3, 2021
Glad to be retired, I’m sorry for all of you boyz
– Shawne Merriman (@shawnemerriman) December 3, 2021
Members of the media were also taken aback by the call.
Of all the questionable calls all season, this is perhaps the worst of them all.
– Rich Eisen (@richeisen) December 3, 2021
If Jayron Kearse was visibly trying to avoid the blocker, he cannot by definition be a blind block.
– Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) December 3, 2021
The Saints lost about a quarter of a football field on a standard block called a “blindside”
– Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) December 3, 2021
Again, the NFL recently redefined “blindside” block to mean any block thrown with the blocker’s back facing the goal line the attack is heading towards. It doesn’t really mean blindside anymore.
Yet this was not the case with the saints there. Terrible penalty appeal.
– Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) December 3, 2021
This whole journey has gone from bad to worse starting with the call of the block blind
– Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) December 3, 2021
Did the refs want Griffin to let Taysom get blown up by the DB on this piece? Like seriously, what the umpires want man.
– Chris Rosvoglou (@RosvoglouReport) December 3, 2021
That penalty wasn’t the only reason the Saints lost – Hill threw four interceptions, including a six-pick late in the fourth quarter – but it certainly didn’t help their cause.