The phrase of the day is, “Down By Contact”. It centers around rule 7.2.1, which is attached below in full, but we will attempt to put it in layman’s terms.
To put it as simple as possible, down by contact is when the runner (QB/RB/WR/TE/anyone) goes to the ground after making contact with a defensive player.
Down by contact only occurs in the NFL. It is not called in the NCAA, High School or Youth league games because if a runner (anyone carrying the ball) goes to the ground, with or without contact they are declared down. For example, if you recall those times that Eric Decker was tackled by the turf monster (lost footing and went to the ground), he would have been declared down if he had been back at Minnesota during his Golden Gopher glory days. Since he was in the NFL, he was able to get up and advance because he wasn’t “touched down”.
This difference is one reason you see rookie receivers, make a catch while going to the ground and lay the ball on the ground. For 6-10 years or so that play has been blown dead. They have to be coached up to know that the play isn’t over. Even some of the best defenders forget about it at times, referenced here by Al Wilson and others making the mistake here:
For either side, the rule of thumb is to make sure you were down. If you aren’t sure, and you are the offensive guy, then hop up and go, the ref will blow it dead. If you are the defender, make sure to “touch” him, with the only question being how aggresive that “touch” is.
Two other examples are going to be addressed. The QB taking the knee in victory formation. That automatically kills the play. It doesn’t stop the clock, but it kills the play. The other example is when a player slides feet first. Normally, it’s a QB sliding feet first after he is flushed from the pocket and scrambles, but if another member of the offense slides feet first, the play is also blown dead at the spot he starts to slide. Shall a QB dive/lunge forward? The play is live until he’s touched down.
*Editor note: an all time favorite is Peyton Manning vs the Steelers in the AFC Divisional round when he slipped, popped up and threw to Emmanuel Sanders. Haha, Mike Tomlin about stroked out.*