Early in the third quarter of Sunday’s Patriots-Cardinals game, Gunner Olszewski rolled a punch, zigzagged through the Arizona defense and accelerated deep into Arizona.
He only had to beat one man in the Cardinals linebacker, Ezekiel Turner, but Turner gained more and more space and was close to catching it. The Patriots rookie Anfernee Jennings suppressed Turner’s huge hit and flew him to the ground. Olszewski plunged into the final zone – which would have been an 82-yard touchdown return – but Jennings was called to an illegal blind block.
The Patriots eventually scored the ball at Arizona’s 39-yard line and settled for a field goal to stand 10-10 with a 7-46 lead. Then journalists, announcers, and fans had different reactions to the call.
Somehow in the NFL rulebook, it’s an illegal blind block and a 15-yard penalty.
– Field Yates (@FieldYates) November 29, 2020
Referee Bill Vinovich said after the game that three flags were actually thrown into the game and it was a “block towards his own end line with a violent contact”.
When ESPN player Mike Reiss asked him what officials were looking for a player to follow the rules of such a game, Vinovich gave a concise answer.
“You should shield or use your hands,” he said.
The Boston GlobeBen Volin noted that a blind block is “an irregularity when a player launches a block when his path moves to or parallel to his own end line and makes violent contact with his opponent with his helmet, forearm, or shoulder.”
According to Volin, by definition, this piece meets the criteria.
12.7. Rule about the illegal blind block. Jennings ’hit could go both ways, and I don’t agree with what officials call it pic.twitter.com/OsAMc0T5t6
– Ben Volin (@BenVolin) November 29, 2020
FOX broadcaster Daryl Johnston said he disagreed with the call because Jennings did not move back to his end zone. He arrived at the point of contact, paused, and shrugged, Johnston said, not toward the head.
“It’s a huge, game-changing game,” Johnston said. “I thought Anfernee Jennings did a lot well.”
NFL rules expert Dean Blandino said he didn’t like the call, but pointed out that referees are asking players to replace their opponents rather than lower their shoulders.
“I think the league will support this as a blind block,” Blandino said on the broadcast.
Pat Belots head coach Bill Belichick immediately stepped up with the call and shouted at an official – with some obscenity – that Turner was getting ready. He then showed the referees photos of the hit at the time limit, but they did not move.
Belichick didn’t say much after the game after the game, but noted that the official simply told him it was a blind block.
“I’m disappointed the punt return was called back,” Belichick said, “but we just have to think we’ll pull it off a bit.”
From the lip reading section …
Bill Belichick for the punishment of Anfernee Jennings for blocking the punt returns: “He is preparing to [expletive] to solve! “
– Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) November 29, 2020
WCVB-TV journalist Christopher Gasper pointed out that the game book was officially called an “illegal crackback”. If Jennings had simply set up a screen, the referees would have let him go, but he threw a block while facing his own goal line or blocking it back towards him. He called it a safety rule.
Note that the game’s NFL game booklet doesn’t call the penalty a blind block. He says blocking an illegal crack is a punishment that is more in line with cutting back to his own gate. Hence the backward term. If you just set a screen, it will be released.
– Christopher Gasper (@cgasper) November 29, 2020
NESN called Doug Kyed “stupid” the rule, but he said the verdict was not wrong.
“Hard flag,” Kyed wrote. “It’s the right call, but you can argue that it should be.”
Anfernee Jennings ’blind cover blocks Gunner Olszewski’s touchdown return. The Patriots continue to give a good field position. Gunner probably would have scored without a block. Hard flag. This is the right call, but you may argue that it should be.
– Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) November 29, 2020
NFL journalist Albert Breer agreed, noting that the rule can be disputed, but the call should not.
So the penalty against Anfernee Jennings – argue with the rule, not the call – subtracts 4 points from the board for the Patriots.
– Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) November 29, 2020
The Boston GlobeJim McBride said “nothing exists in this.”
Olszewski punt with a returning spark. Jennings was penalized for a block that special teams dream of. There is nothing blindly in it. # Patriots
– Jim McBride (@ globejimmcbride) November 29, 2020
MassLive.com Chris Mason also disapproved.
“It’s soccer,” he tweeted. – People are hit.
Honestly, what should Anfernee Jennings do? Just let the defender get the gear?
This is football. People hit it.
– Chris Mason (@ByChrisMason) November 29, 2020
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