Dirty Laundry: A little help

Carlo of East Rutherford, N.J., offers us a chance to dive into a rule distinction we haven’t addressed yet this season:

Aaron Rodgers made a first down with less than five minutes left with a quarterback sneak against the 49ers. If you look at the replay, it appears that he was pushed from behind and assisted in gaining the first down by one of his running backs. I always thought that this was a penalty. Yes or no?

Quite definitively, the answer is no.

The NFL rulebook prohibits several actions designed to accelerate the progress of a ball carrier. But pushing from behind is not one of them. Fullback Quinn Johnson's shove was perfectly legal, and when you watch the replay, it looks like was probably necessary to secure a first down.

Here is what the rules say no offensive player can do:

(a) lift a runner to his feet or pull him in any direction at any time; or

(b) use interlocking interference, by grasping a teammate or by using his hands or arms to encircle the body of a teammate; or

(c) trip an opponent; or

(d) push or throw his body against a teammate to aid him in an attempt to obstruct an opponent or to recover a loose ball.

The rulebook even provides an example of the Johnson-Rodgers play as an example of what is legal:

Second and goal on B2. Runner A1 gets to the line of scrimmage and is stopped but A2, who is behind him, pushes him from behind and shoves him over the goal line. Ruling: Touchdown.

There’s nothing revelatory here, but I find that many people have mistaken assumptions about NFL rules and how they’re applied. Hopefully we’ll be able to continue mowing them down here on Dirty Laundry.

Moving on to our Week 12 Challenge Tracker: