ESPN rules analyst claims officials missed tripping call on Jets’ game-winning punt return

The Jets provided their fans a slim silver lining to a disastrous night with a walk-off win in overtime. After the punt return from undrafted rookie Xavier Gipson that sealed the victory, a former NFL referee tried to rain on the parade.

John Parry of ESPN applied an “asterisk” to the win by citing an uncalled tripping penalty on Jets linebacker Chazz Surratt, after Bills tight end Quintin Morris fell after colliding with Surratt’s leg.

But was it tripping? Literally, Morris tripped over Surratt’s leg. The tripping foul, as a source with knowledge of the dynamics explained it, includes an element of intent.

Players collide with legs of other players all the time. It’s contact incidental to the movement of bodies in all directions. To determine that a trip occurred, the officials have to believe that the use of the leg was intentional and not inadvertent. Unless they are certain of the intent — and it’s a know-it-when-you-see-it test — it’s not an intentional trip.

For example, Lions running back David Montgomery committed a blatant trip on Thursday night. We all saw it. As did the officials. It was called.

In this case, Bills coach Sean McDermott wasn’t asked about the play in his post-game press conference. Also, no one requested a pool report with referee Carl Cheffers.

If a pool report had been requested, Cheffers would have explained that: (1) it’s a judgment call; and (2) in real time, the officials didn’t believe it was a foul.’

This year, tripping became a 15-yard foul. The conduct in question happened at the Buffalo 27. The Jets would have had the ball, first and 10, from the Buffalo 42. So, yes, the foul would have potentially changed the outcome of the game, if it had been made.

The fact that Parry so quickly and decisively threw the proverbial flag on the officials’ failure to throw the flag was a bit surprising. First, TV rules analysts rarely do this in real time. Second, Parry was (in my view) overstating the evidence.

It was not clear that the contact was anything other than incidental. Thus, the failure to make the call does not undermine the New York win.

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