Red Lining

And, on Monday morning, the NFL attempted to close the can of worms that was opened on Sunday night.

You remember the play -- the Giants' Eli Manning was penalized for an illegal forward pass. Upon looking at the replay, referee Terry McAulay reversed the call, saying that Manning was not over the line. Replays showed his heel barely touching the red line that TV superimposes on the screen to mark the line of scrimmage. Even with that, there is controversy about what the line means -- is the beginning of it the real line of scrimmage, or is the whole line meant to represent the line?

Here is the NFL's explanation. Short version, forget the red line:

In last night’s game between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, the Giants faced a 3rd-and-10 from just outside the Eagles’ 20 with 6:25 remaining in the third quarter. The Giants were penalized on the play for an illegal forward pass. New York challenged the ruling.

Rule 8, Section 1, Article 1, Note 3 of the NFL Rule Book (page 49) states that “the penalty for a forward pass beyond the line is to be enforced from the spot where the ball is released when the passer’s entire body and the ball are beyond the line of scrimmage. This includes either when the passer is airborne or touching the ground.

The instant replay review determined that Giants quarterback Eli Manning was not entirely beyond the line of scrimmage when he released the pass. Thus, the on-field ruling of an illegal forward pass was reversed by referee Terry McAulay. The result of the pass completion gave New York a first-and-goal at the Philadelphia three.

Please note that the red line used on the telecast to indicate the line of scrimmage – just outside the Eagles’ 20 – is not official. In reviewing the play, Terry McAulay relied on the position of the line-of-scrimmage marker held by the chain crew, which officially is located on the head linesman’s side of the field.

Here is the problem: there is no way that McAulay could have been absolutely certain that Manning was still behind the line without benefit of the red line. Evidence is supposed to be indisputable in order for a ruling to be overturned. We are talking about a matter of a couple of inches tops here. There is no chance that he could be 100 percent certain based upon eyeballing a line-of-scrimmage marker that was tens of yards away from the ball. Again, we're talking about inches.

All of which is a short way of saying that I'm not so sure the Eagles feel any better after hearing this explanation.