Last Sunday, Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore was flagged for what may very well be the most costly flag of the NFL season thus far.
Sure, the Panthers probably wouldn’t be contending for a spot in the postseason even if they had gotten the win against the Atlanta Falcons in week 8. But I’m sure they still would have preferred to beat their division rival on the road. And they should have done just that, had it not been for Moore’s penalty for removing his helmet after securing the game-tying touchdown on a 62-yard bomb from P.J. Walker with just 12 seconds remaining in regulation.
From there, all the Panthers needed was a measly extra point to escape Atlanta with a victory. But Moore didn’t make things any easier for kicker Eddy Pineiro by setting him back 15-yards following his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
However, as NFL Senior V.P. Of Officiating Administration, Perry Fewell, told the crew on Monday Night Countdown, Moore shouldn’t have been penalized because he technically was not “within the field of play or the end zone” when he removed his helmet.
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The rule, which was implemented in 1997, states that players cannot remove their helmet “in the field of play or the end zone during a celebration or demonstration.” Apparently, this means that players are allowed to simply step out of the back of the end zone, take off their helmet, and avoid being penalized.
Here’s how Fewell explained it, via ProFootballTalk:
Fewell acknowledged that, as explained here , Moore wasn’t the only Panthers player to remove his helmet during the celebration. Fewell then said that, under the rule, Moore’s behavior shouldn’t have triggered a foul because he wasn’t “in the field of play or the end zone” when he removed his helmet.
PFT’s Mike Florio did point out that such an interpretation could be problematic for the NFL, as it could lead to players simply stepping out of the back of the end zone and removing their helmets to celebrate every touchdown going forward. And they’s definitely not something the league wants to see.
It’ll be interesting to see how the NFL responds to this loophole in their rules. Don’t be surprised if they decide to make some alterations to this rule in the offseason, if not sooner.
As for the game, in case you missed it, the Panthers would go on to miss the game-winning extra point before losing the game in overtime.
Here’s another look at the play where Moore was penalized:
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