With 2:30 remaining in regulation and Seattle barely holding onto a 24-21 lead, punt returner and Bengals cornerback Adam Jones glided under Seahawks punter Jon Ryan's 51-yard punt.
A quick and low hand movement from Jones was seen before he took off to return the ball.
After securing the football around the 23-yard line, Jones gracefully sprinted upfield as various Bengals and Seahawks players stood around. OK, that's odd. Once Derrick Coleman tackled Jones around the 45-yard line, Jones realized the officials declared a fair catch (the aforementioned hand movement), wiping out a return with significant implications. Not only that, they flagged him for an invalid fair catch signal.
An emotional Jones aggressively removed his helmet and was, at one point, escorted off the field by Vontaze Burfict.
In addition to a game-changing return being nullified, Jones was flagged for an invalid fair catch signal -- meaning he signaled a fair catch and returned the football. (NOTE: I've never understood this penalty because what really impacts the game? Officials are already blowing the whistle and the returner has the biggest risk of being injured.) Now Cincinnati had a first down on their own 18-yard line with 2:17 remaining in the game.
Pro Football Talk wondered why Jones wasn't flagged for a personal foul for removing his helmet, which should have forced Cincinnati to start at their own nine-yard line:
While arguing against the penalty, Jones angrily removed his helmet. Under Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1(i), Jones should have been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, since he removed the helmet "during a confrontation with a game official" and because a timeout had not been called due to injury, television break, or charged team timeout.
Fox Sports analyst and former Vice President of Officiating Mike Pereira agreed.
#PacmanJones shouldve gotten a 15 yard penalty.. you cannot take off your helmet and argue with an official. You have to see that #SEAvsCIN— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) October 11, 2015
On this, we agree; we're not going to ignore a valid argument just because we're Bengals fans. Jones should have been flagged for his reaction.
But, did the officials blow the fair catch call?
Under Rule 10, Section 2, Article 2, Item 1: The definition of a fair-catch signal states as follows:
A fair-catch signal is valid if it is made while the kick is in flight by a player who fully extends one arm above his helmet and waves it from side to side.
There is a secondary rule, called the Invalid Fair-Catch Signal. Per Rule 10, Section 2, Article 2, Items 2:
If a player raises his hand(s) above his shoulder(s) in any other manner, it is an invalid faircatch signal. If there is an invalid fair-catch signal, the ball is dead when caught or recovered by any player of the receiving team, but it is not a fair catch.
This was the play:
Did Jones "fully extend" an arm above his helmet and wave it from "side-to-side"? No, so it's not a fair catch.
Did his arm go above his shoulder, as stated for an invalid fair catch?
Eye of the beholder, maybe? Subjective? Poor angle? Is his arm above his shoulder? Does the arm have to be above the shoulder the entire time to declare an invalid fair catch? We could see why an official would call it -- his fingers were above his slouched left shoulder, just before a downward motion.
Maybe, we'll call this a draw.