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Raiders game tying TD that wasn't: Making sense of Amari Cooper illegal touching penalty

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Late in the Raiders 35-28 loss to the Falcons, it appeared as if Amari Cooper had made a game-tying touchdown catch only to have it called back.

The Raiders had 9 penalties for 58 yards in their week two loss to the Falcons. None may have been more costly than Amari Cooper's "Illegal Touching" penalty that negated a TD. Here we will try to make sense out of the ruling.

After the game, Amari Cooper was unsure of why the call was made or exactly what the rule was

"To be honest, I'm not really clear on the rule," said Cooper. "I know the college rule is if they push you out of bounds, you can come back in and catch the ball, but I think the NFL rule is it doesn't matter how you get out of bounds, you can't be the first one to touch the ball. That's what I think it is, I'm not really sure on that."

Jack Del Rio seemed to have a little bit better of an idea of the rule and why it applied in this case:

"Well he was definitely pushed out, but it's not the college game," said Del Rio. "Unless he was pushed out illegally, which the question was, was he pushed out illegally or not. It was decided that he was not pushed out illegally and therefore the hat comes off and he can't get the ball. The only time you get that ability to come back in after being forced out is if it was illegal contact that forced him out."

Following the penalty, the Raiders went for it on fourth and two -- handing the ball to Jalen Richard -- and failed to convert. The Falcons got the ball at midfield and drove for a touchdown to take a two-score lead. Essentially a 14-point swing. So, that penalty on Cooper was pivotal to result of this game.

Goro Burroughs takes a look at that play as well as the rule book and how it applies.

Unfortunately, it appears to have been a proper call, also. According to the NFL Rulebook

Rule 8, Section 1, Article 6(d) :

If an eligible receiver is forced out of bounds by a foul by a defender, including illegal contact, defensive holding, or defensive pass interference, provided he attempts to return inbounds immediately, he will become eligible to legally touch the pass (without prior touching by another eligible receiver or defender) as soon as he re-establishes himself inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands.

Amari was clearly bumped out of bounds by Desmond Trufant and it was beyond the five yards, so it seems like it should have been a no-call. Except that Derek Carr had broken outside of the pocket and so this rule takes effect.

Rule 8, Section 4, Article 2 :

Beyond the five-yard zone, if the player who receives the snap remains in the pocket with the ball, a defender cannot initiate contact with a receiver who is attempting to evade him.

Since Derek broke the pocket, the defender was allowed to initiate contact with the receiver.

A lesson learned for all.