NFL calls a truce in its war on defenses

For those of us who enjoy defense in professional football, the NFL has made a rare rule change that allows for defensive backs to break up pass plays. For decades, pushing a receiver out of bounds while catching the ball in the air resulted in a reception, especially on the goal line, as referees ruled that the receiver would have come down in the field of play otherwise. Now the quarterbacks will have to make sure that the ball stays in bounds as the force-out has become legal:

Hallelujah.

The NFL finally broke with tradition — tradition being, “Let’s torture the defensive players again” — by making a rule change that could actually prevent some touchdowns.

They did it by rescinding one of the more ludicrous and aggravating rules in the history of professional sports — the dreaded force-out.

Until now, a referee could declare a pass complete if he determined that an airborne receiver would have landed with both feet in-bounds if only he hadn’t been knocked out of bounds before he landed. … Now, you have to be in-bounds to be considered in-bounds.

The NFL has gradually turned pass defense into an Ivy League debating society. They can’t touch the receivers past five yards from the line of scrimmage, the refs call them for any contact initiated while the ball is in the air, and the force-out rule essentially gave QBs an extra yard on either side of the field outside of the defense’s control. It produced acrobatic toe-tapping catches made possible by the force-out rule.

Finally, DBs get a break. It comes as a bit of a surprise, since the league likes high-scoring games and usually errs on the side of points. Not only does it make the fans happier to see shoot-outs, but it also produces more advertising spots to sell, which makes the games almost interminable. Corners and safeties will get more of an opportunity for interceptions as the rule change will take away that outside pass, and receivers will have to refine their skills to establish position on the sideline routes.

Pittsburgh and other defense-oriented teams will love it. Cleveland and Cincinnati will have one more reason to cry in the fall. (via Fraters Libertas)