The phrase of the day is “tackle box”. It is the area that spans from the outside hip of the left tackle to the outside hip of the right tackle, and runs the from the line of scrimmage to the end zone behind the offense. It is shaded in orange in the two graphics below.
The term comes into play the majority of the time when a QB is accused of Intentional Grounding, which in layman’s terms is the QB gets rid of the ball to avoid getting sacked and the throw is nowhere near a receiver. When this happens, the refs huddle, walk their way through the rules which is included at the bottom of this post.
In either scenario shown below, simply throwing the ball out of bounds behind the LOS does not save him from a penalty. The penalty is generally a 10 yards and “loss of down”, unless the spot he threw the ball is deeper than 10 yards, then it is a “spot foul”, and a loss of down. If the penalty occurs in the end zone then it is a safety. In each of the two diagrams below it would be a 10 yard penalty and a loss of down.
Again, you can see the tackle box shaded in orange. In this scenario, the QB is still in the tackle box, and is under pressure. The yellow dots represent throws that would draw a flag because they are not near an eligible receiver. The black dots represent throws that would simply go as an incomplete pass because there is an eligible receiver in the receiver’s vicinity. The black/yellow checkerboard dots represent a throw that the ref could go either way with calling a penalty because they are somewhat near a receiver, or could have gone over a receiver’s head in the case on the one that is the furthest to the left. The one at say the 22/23 yard line is in between three receivers and depending on what direction they are headed it might be considered close enough. At times, it turns into a judgement call instead of cut and dry like many of the yellow dots.
In this scenario, the QB has been flushed from the pocket so unloading the ball means he only has to get it to or past the line of scrimmage. It makes the call easier to determine because he is outside of the tackle box. Each graphic was purposefully created with the ball being snapped from the right has so that the hash marks would not come into play as potential landmarks.
Intentional Grounding Rules