By Bill Bradley, contributing editor
Penalties for hits on defenseless players have been cut almost in half this season, falling from 35 fouls through 10 weeks of the 2013 season to 16 so far this season, according to NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino.
"They're substantially down," Blandino said during his weekly "Officiating Review" video distributed to the media Friday. "Players are adjusting. The coaches are adjusting. That's a positive thing."
However, Blandino said there has been a slight increase in illegal blindside blocks.
"The blindside block is when you approach your opponent from behind or on the side; you're blocking back toward or parallel to your end line and you make contact with his head or neck area," said Blandino, who showed an example during last Sunday's Tennessee Titans-Baltimore Ravens game. "That defender gets defenseless player protection. You can't hit him forcibly in the head or neck area and you can't hit him with the crown or the forehead parts of the helmet to any part of his body.
"... When we talk about approaching from behind or the side, it's the direction from which the blocker is coming from ... in relation to the field."
He said the legal blocking method, especially on kicks where hitting below the waist illegal, is aiming for the shoulder area and below.
Blandino also discussed a controversial play that took place Monday night when a Philadelphia Eagles offensive play was declared dead because the line judge was not in position. He said the decision was not meant to give the Carolina Panthers an advantage against the Eagles' hurry-up offense, but to allow safety of the official and the players near the sideline.
"All seven officials have to be in place to officiate the play," he said. "We understand what the up-tempo offenses are doing. ... Our officials have worked to try to be efficient in spotting the football and get into position. But when we have our line judge who is out in the field of play we cannot allow the snap. This is dangerous for him, the players. He can't effectively officiate the play, so we shut it down and we basically have a do-over.
"The key is all seven officials have to be in position to officiate the play. We want our line of scrimmage officials back near the sideline. They don't have to be on the sideline set for five seconds, but they can't be on the field of play. And when we talk about the umpire and referee, they have got to be deeper than the deepest back so they can effectively officiate what they need to look at."
Blandino said he thinks officials have been very efficient when working with hurry-up offenses. However, the crews will continue to work on this portion of their game.
"We don't want to prevent the offense when they don't substitute from being able to get up and efficiently snap the football," he said. "