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Tuesday - 11/13/2001

The Scenario:
Trailing 16-10, with :14 remaining in the 4th quarter, Tennessee Titans QB Steve McNair completes a 5-yard pass to WR Kevin Dyson to the Baltimore Ravens 1-yard line. With zero timeouts, Tennessee scrambles to the line of scrimmage to try and get off one final play before time expires. As the ball is set, McNair sneaks into the end zone to what appears to be a 1-yard touchdown run. However, Ravens LB Peter Boulware is called offsides and is ruled to have made �illegal contact� with the offense.

Here is the rule explanation provided by NFL Director of Officiating Mike Pereira:

According to Rule 4, Section 3, Article 9 of the 2001 Official Rule Book of the NFL, �During the last two minutes of a half, once the ball has been respotted for the succeeding down�.the Umpire, upon signal from the Referee, is to step away from the ball. At this point a snap made be made. If the ball is snapped before all members of the defensive team have taken their proper position on the line of scrimmage, play is to be stopped immediately and that team penalized five yards for offside.�

There are two situations for defensive offsides in this scenario:

If the defense cannot get back to the line of scrimmage before the snap, the officials can shut the play down and call offsides on the defense.

Or if the officials feel that the defense can get back to the line of scrimmage before the snap but the defensive player makes contact with an offensive player, the officials should shut the play down for encroachment. That contact kills the play before the ball is snapped.

Q: Were the Titans lined up in an illegal formation?

Pereira: Yes they were, but illegal formation is not a foul until the ball is snapped. Again, once the defensive contact was made with the offense, the play is dead.

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