The NFL’s rule on what to do about a fumble that goes out of bounds in the end zone will never make sense, no matter how many times we see it.
The NFL’s worst rule popped up again in the final minute of the first half of Thursday night’s game. Minnesota Vikings star receiver Justin Jefferson made a great catch against the Philadelphia Eagles, but as he moved forward, he had the ball knocked out for a fumble. He was just making a normal football play.
Had the ball gone out of bounds at the half-yard line, as was initially ruled, the Vikings would've gotten possession there. But a replay showed that Jefferson’s fumble actually went right over the pylon. And everyone knew what that meant.
Yep, that half-yard difference meant the fumble was actually in the end zone. And by rule, since the fumble went out of the end zone, the Vikings lost possession, and the Eagles got the ball at the 20-yard line.
— NFL (@NFL) September 15, 2023
It doesn’t make sense that there is such a harsh punishment for a fumble that goes out of bounds in the end zone. The difference of half a yard made for a game-changing play. It’s not like Jefferson did anything wrong. He just got the ball knocked loose, and then the Vikings got really unlucky.
It got worse when the Eagles broke a big run trying to run out the clock, then decided to get in the two-minute drill and ended up with a field goal as time expired in the half. Instead of the Vikings potentially taking a lead on a touchdown after Jefferson's big catch, they trailed 13-7 going into halftime. The Eagles eventually won 34-28.
It's one of those rules that's on the NFL's books because there had to be some ruling when a situation such as that happened. Way back when, they decided possession would change, and it would be a touchback. Nobody thinks that's a fair way to legislate that play. But the NFL doesn't seem to want to change it, either.