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Why No Sack/Forced Fumble For Riley?

Posted by Andrew Walker on October 18, 2012 – 9:56 am

One of the key plays and turning points for the Washington Redskins in last Sunday’s victory against the Minnesota Vikings occurred late in the second quarter, when, with the Redskins up 10-9, linebacker Lorenzo Alexander came up with a loose ball at the Vikings’ six-yard line.

On the very next play, quarterback Robert Griffin III found fullback Darrel Young for a touchdown pass, and the Redskins didn’t look back at that point en route to their 38-26 win over NFC North-leading Minnesota.

Most of us in the press box — and I’m sure many of you watching at home or at FedExField — were wondering exactly how the ball squirted out of Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder’s hands, went straight up in the air and right into Alexander’s waiting arms?

At first, because the ball never touched the ground, we thought it was an interception by Alexander, which would’ve been his first-career pick. Then, after reviewing the play, it was officially ruled a team sack for the Redskins with a fumble by Ponder, which was recovered by Alexander.

The main question I had was why didn’t middle linebacker Perry Riley get credited for the sack and the forced fumble? After all, he pushed his man — running back Adrian Peterson — into Ponder, which, to me, looked like it could’ve caused the fumble.

Well, the Elias Sports Bureau, which reviews all plays, gave the Redskins the following explanation yesterday:

“The sack rule states: when the player making an apparent attempt to pass is tackled or downed at or behind the statistical line of scrimmage, credit a sack to the defensive player who tackled or downed the potential passer.

EXCEPTION: If the potential passer fumbles before contact by the defense, no sack is credited to any individual defensive player. However, credit the defensive team with a sack. The number of defensive sacks should be equal to the number of offensive sacks.

This play falls under the exception – we looked at the play from all different angles and could not conclude that Riley did anything to cause Ponder to fumble.”

So there’s an official explanation straight from the statistical horse’s mouth.

It doesn’t take away from the fact that it was a great combined effort by both Perry and Alexander, and helped provide a spark for the Redskins to grab the momentum it needed to win the game.

The play was also just one of many that both Alexander and Riley have been making all year.

Alexander — who also had 1.5 sacks against the Vikings last Sunday — leads the team with 14 special-teams tackles and has six tackles on defense with three quarterback pressures.

Riley, meanwhile, is second on the team in tackles with 72 and has one sack, one tackle for loss, three quarterback hits, six pass deflections and one forced fumble and fumble recovery each.

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