(SportsNetwork.com) - Overtime in the NFL should be compelling theater, but bad policy often spawns unintended consequences.
Don't blame the New York Jets for what happened in North Jersey on Sunday.
Winning in the NFL is hard, so when umpire Tony Michalek or any other official gift wraps a victory and dumps it in your lap, you say thank you very much and in this particular case, boot the 42-yard field goal before you go about your celebration.
By the letter of the law, the officials got it right when they flagged New England's Chris Jones for pushing one of his own teammates from behind during a potential game-winning, 56-yard field goal attempt by Nick Folk in the extra frame of the Jets' eventual 30-27 victory over the New England Patriots.
Folk pulled the monster try wide to the left, but was given a rather sizeable mulligan when Jones was spied pushing and therefore flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, a miscue that moved the ball inside the Pats' 25-yard line and all but sealed the outcome as Folk was indeed true on the re-do to complete New York's rousing comeback from an 11-point halftime deficit.
"The call was that No. 94 on the defense pushed his teammate into the formation," referee Jerome Boger told pool reporter Mike Reiss after the game. "That is a rule change for 2013 that a teammate cannot push a teammate into the opponents' formation."
The arcane regulation is brand new for the 2013 season and labeled as Rule 913: "Team B players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation."
Like most new rules these days, it was adopted in the name of player safety and had never been called before Sunday, according to Mike Pereira, the former vice president of officiating for the NFL before he departed for television and took over as the rules analyst at FOX Sports.
The fact that the networks actually feel they need rules analysts should tell you all you need to know about what is now a mind-numbing, over-legislated sport.
Think about it.
You never see rules czars in other major professional sports during national television broadcasts for a simple reason -- they aren't needed because the regulations are pretty straight forward.
That said, we are not talking life and death consequences here and it would be nice if the NFL or its officials could use a little judgment steeped in common sense.
Over in baseball, former American League President Lee MacPhail once coined the phrase "spirit of the restriction" to overturn an obvious injustice in the famous George Brett pine tar game. Meanwhile, hockey officials are often vilified or championed depending on your point of view for their habit of "swallowing the whistle" in the third period of key games.
The thought process behind that kind of thinking is sound: the players should be the ones deciding the games, not middle-aged men in striped shirts.
Jets fans are thrilled they got the early Christmas gift and they should be, just like Pats backers hung on to the pedantic NFL rule book like a life raft during the Tom Brady tuck fiasco.
But if you don't have any skin in the game, you understand this is an awful way to be deciding football games.
The "spirit" of this stupid rule understands Jones had no intent to injure anyone and his violation had absolutely no adverse affect on Folk's misfire from 56 yards.
You can play hardliner all you want and say Jones should know and understand the rule, but his coach, perhaps the best in all of football, didn't.
Bill Belichick believed that the push was only illegal if it came from a player on the second level of the defense, but Boger confirmed that isn't the case.
"Any push. It could be with the body, not necessarily with the hand, but with the body into his teammate, into the formation. It's any type of pushing action," Boger stated.
To his credit, Jones stood up and took the blame for the costly penalty when speaking with reporters after the game.
"It was something we talked about in camp and it just skipped out of my mind," Jones said. "It was my mistake and nobody else's. I just have to man up to it and fix it next time. I was just trying to get that extra little umph in the middle, to get up there."
The fact this rule skipped out of Jones' mind is hardly earth-shattering news. Do you really think if our own Congressional representatives don't have the time to read life-altering legislation, a 23-year-old backup defensive tackle is going to digest the NFL's rule book and come out on the other side in a state of clarity?
The evolution of this latest stain on the game was planted last week when examples of this very infraction were put on the officials weekly training tape to point out instances where it was not called but should have been.
Boger, last year's Super Bowl referee, and Michalek, his umpire, were undoubtedly trying to curry more favor with Dean Blandino, the current head of officiating.
And maybe they will get the gold star from Blandino this week, but the rest of us got cheated.
Geno Smith didn't decide Sunday's game and neither did Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski or even Folk.
A 58-year-old underwriter for Allstate Insurance and his staff did.
Those damn unintended consequences.