Vikings WR Justin Jefferson falls victim to NFL’s dumbest fumble rule

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PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – SEPTEMBER 14: Justin Jefferson #18 of the Minnesota Vikings fumbles over the pylon for a touchback while being tackled by Terrell Edmunds #26 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on September 14 2023. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

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.

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The worst rule in the NFL came 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 advanced, the ball was taken away from him and he fumbled. He was just making a normal football play.

Had the ball gone out of bounds at the half-yard line, as initially ruled, the Vikings would have gained possession there. But a replay showed that Jefferson’s fumble actually went over the post. And everyone knew what that meant.

Yes, that half-yard difference meant the fumble was actually in the end zone. And by rule, since the fumble left the end zone, the Vikings lost possession and the Eagles got the ball at the 20-yard line.

It doesn’t make sense that there is such a severe penalty for a fumble that goes out of bounds of the end zone. The half-yard difference led to a play that changed the game. It’s not that Jefferson did anything wrong. He just fumbled the ball and then the Vikings got really unlucky.

It got worse when the Eagles broke a big streak trying to run out the clock, then decided to go through the two-minute drill and ended it with a field goal as time expired in the half. Instead of the Vikings being able to take a touchdown lead after Jefferson’s big catch, they were trailing 13-7 heading into halftime. The Eagles ultimately won 34-28.

It’s one of those rules that is on the NFL books because there had to be some rule when a situation like that happened. They decided a long time ago that possession would change and it would be a touchback. Nobody believes that it is a fair way to legislate that work. But the NFL doesn’t seem to want to change it either.


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