12 men on field with 20 seconds left

In the second to last play of the game, the Patriots were down by 4, had nineteen seconds on the clock, and were on their own 45ish yard line. Brady throws a hail mary that lands incomplete. The Giants got penalized for having 12 men on the field, and that moved the Patriots up 5 yards, but the time spent on the play still counted, leaving the patriots with 9 seconds left.

My question is: was the penalty beneficial/possibly intentional? The Giants had the benefit of having an extra defender, and the lost 5 yards is inconsequential when there’s only time for one more play.

I had a similar thought after that play. Could the Giants have just kept doing that? Or even taken it to extremes (the whole team in the end-zone, for example). At over 5 seconds a pop the 5-yard penalties seem a small punishment if the time doesn’t get put back on the clock.

I wondered that myself and I’m surprised there wasn’t more said about it. Why not throw away five yards to ensure that all of the Patriots WRs are double-teamed? I don’t know if was intentional or not, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the NFL Competition Committee takes a good look at that situation in the offseason to prevent advantageous uses of extra men on the field.

If they did it and the time ran out, the Pats would still get another play. If they kept doing it, the Pats would keep getting free plays.

It was certainly beneficial, but I doubt it was purposeful.
A 15 yard illegal participation penalty would probably help keep teams from doing this on purpose. Or giving the offensive team the penalty yards and give the time back. 12 men would hardly be the only penalty a defense could intentionally use to gain an advantage when the offense has very limited time.

I think it was potentially beneficial*, but not likely to have been intentional. If Brady has his wits about him, and saw the 12 men, he could spike the ball, get the yards, a stopped clock and not lose a down.

*Apparently the 12th man was actually trying to get off the field, so that wouldn’t have helped at all, but I don’t have confirmation of that.

Ah, good call. That would prevent it from being abusable.

No way it was intentional, it gives the offense a free play. Yeah, they lose the time of the play no matter what, but they always have the option of accepting the play if the outcome is beneficial. Worse, if it had been beneficial it results in a stopped clock, so even a catch in the middle of the field would have resulted in immediate clock stoppage. That they had an extra player on the field means they probably wouldn’t have been much help anyway since they likely would have been doubled up on someone else’s responsibility rather than lessening everyone’s a little bit. So not much of an advantage. And, of course, as others mentioned, you can’t just keep doing it because the game cannot end on a defensive penalty.

I imagine if it were intentional, particularly if they did it more than once, I imagine the refs could throw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct, possibly against the team multiple times (perhaps for each infraction or against the coach and the team or something) and can end up penalizing the team a huge chunk of yards.

So, the small advantage that a 12th person might give in that situation, as Hail Mary passes are very seldom connected because you’re dropping 8 into coverage against 5 receivers on a long deep lob of a pass which lets many converge on the spot. How much more help would another person be compared to the risks involved?

I’m surprised they didn’t put time back on the clock (the refs can do that, right?). Technically, the play should have been over immediately at the moment of the penalty, and the penalty situation existed as soon as the clock started with too many men on the field, right?

The refs cannot put back time on the clock unless the rules call for it. It is not up to their discretion.

As noted, the clock advantage for the Giants was offset by the free play and stopped clock implications. Had the Patriots connected, the clock would have stopped. Also, the game cannot end on a defensive penalty, so there is no advantage to be gained by attempting it multiple times in that situation.

Answered here.

It is clearly not intentional, as we can see the 12th man is not an additional defensive back in a set position, but lineman Justin Tuck trying to leave the field with his helmet in his hand.

That said, the rules have to be changed so that for any defensive penalty in the last minute of a half, the offense could decline it and have the time elapsed put back on the clock.

I would guess that it would be allowed under the God clause, but I can’t quote the NFL regs on that.

That article has a great analysis. Football is a complex game. Like them or hate them, Belichick and Caughlin understand the game at a level the rest of us can’t imagine.That’s why they get the big bucks. They have transcended the average coaches and that is why their teams were playing the game. We saw coaching decisions that were outside the norm but, after analyzing them, were brilliant. One had to win and one had to lose, yet they both coached a hell of a game. There is no shame.

What could they really do though? Because it would seem like the NBA, when dealing with similar issue at the end of games, has little recourse.

One other question. What if the Giants backs just decided to tackle the pats receivers at the line of scrimmage, and just held them down long enough to allow their line to get to Brady. What kind of penalty would that incur?

Pass Interference or defensive holding, and your line wouldn’t get to Brady because he’d throw the ball 2 seconds after seeing you tackle all his guys. You could also get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for such a coordinated action.

Receivers are trained to evade blocks on the line as much as cornerbacks are trained to make them. When two of the people being blocked are Gronkowski and Hernandez, who outsize any defensive back, it gets harder. And a failed block puts you in a position where the receiver is behind you, which in that situation is the last thing you want. You always want the play in front of you.

ETA: Defensive backs are allowed contact within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, though I don’t know for sure how much contact.

They could change it from a 5-yard penalty to a 15-yard one.

If they did something that egregiously illegal, there’s actually a range of penalties that could be called.

It’s at least Defensive Holding (multiple acts of) for 5 yards and automatic first down.

If multiple receivers are being taken to the grass, it’s probably more like a Personal Foul (multiple acts of) for 15 yards and an automatic first down. It’s also flagrant enough that players would be ejected from the game. Note it would go from Unsportsmanlike Conduct to Personal Foul since contact was involved (thought the penalty is the same).

Since it would be clearly intentional and designed to be unfair, the refs could very well call a Palpably Unfair Act. The officials have WIDE latitude in assigned a penalty for this one, including yardage or a free score (if they were close to the goal line), and can eject players from the game. Since this act occurs far enough away, it would probably be a large chunk of yardage.

Most likely, Brady sees the penalty, spikes the ball, only loses a couple seconds, the personal foul is called, and it’s a free 15 yards and automatic first down. It would also be incredibly dumb on the part of the Giants and they’d be vilified by everybody (except die-hard fans) even if they won. Also, the NFL would probably impose some significant penalties on the players and coaching staff for doing this in front of a record TV home audience.

They’re allowed to make contact, but you can’t hold or tackle the guy. The 12 men on the field call didn’t hurt the Giants, but it certainly could have- imagine if they’d gotten another sack or forced a turnover on that play. Then the angle changes from “the Giants successfully wasted 10 seconds” to “the Giants had the game won and gave the Patriots the ball back.”