The Chicago Bears, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the 30-yard “Incompletion”

Rules of the Game: The 30 Yard “Incompletion”

On January 6, 2019, the Chicago Bears completed a 30-yard pass in their playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The pass was then fumbled as the Bears receiver went to the ground.

Unfortunately, the referee’s initial ruling of an incomplete pass was deemed non-reversible under the current interpretation of the NFL rules due to the fact that the officials (and not either team) “recovered” the fumble…which was, again, not called a fumble on the field.

And so, the 30-yard “incompletion” was born.

What do the NFL rules say about this mess?

How could they be changed (or interpreted differently) to avoid disregarding what everyone knows to be the correct ruling?

And what does this say about rule drafting, interpretation, and law in general?


Thumbnail image from NBC Broadcast of the game (with arrow from the Twitter account of John Breech).


Discussed in this episode:

Bears Complete 30-Yard Pass For No Gain As Officials Recover Fumble
Deadspin, January 6, 2019

The 2018 NFL Rulebook

The Hoeg Law Twitter Account


“Virtual Legality” is a continuing series discussing the law, rules, video games, software, and everything digital, hosted by Richard Hoeg, of the Hoeg Law Business Law Firm (Hoeg Law).

Rick has practiced for more than a decade at some of the country’s largest law firms, representing IT, software, video game, and other technology companies, as well as the individuals and institutions which fund them.

DISCUSSION IS PROVIDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND IS NOT TO BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE. INDIVIDUALS INTERESTED IN THE LEGAL TOPICS DISCUSSED IN THIS VIDEO SHOULD CONSULT WITH THEIR OWN COUNSEL.

Any and all feedback is appreciated. Let us know what you think!

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