Understanding your Tilt: Why was Alex Smith’s passing touchdown a lateral?

When I saw Alex Smith throw a touchdown to Dontari Poe last weekend, I thought for sure that I would save 50% of my DFS lineups, by scraping one TD out of a terrible gamescript.

But alas, ’twas a lateral, your grace.

I think this image represents our feelings.

My eyes closed and the tilt creeped through the back of my neck, to my mouth, where it exploded, “It was a lateral. It didn’t go forwards. F — -.” Then I grounded myself with, “That’s what you get for playing Alex Smith.”

Then my wife said, “Who are you talking to?”

“The Tiltiverse. I know it’s listening.”

How did this play unfold? How could this happen? It was a pass and catch. It was a screen, right? Isn’t that basically a bubble screen?

First, we should re-define the rules, then let’s look at the film.


NFL Rulebook 2016: Rule 8, Section 1- Forward pass, backward pass, fumble

I read most of this but tthe thing that is most important to note is Rule 1: Section 1 and Rule 1: Section 1: Article 1

This defines a forward pass as having to travel “nearer to the opponent’s goal line”. So, let’s settle on that. Our working definition of a forward pass- when a ball travels towards the other team’s goal line.

A forward pass can be qualified by the movement of the ball or the of the passer’s hand….This is the rule that saves Eli Manning 4 fumbles a year.

So, part of the qualification for a forward pass is the movement of a hand forward.

Based on the NFL rules, if the throw from Smith is going to be a forward pass, it can be qualified in two ways-

1- The ball goes towards the Raiders’ goal line.


2- Smith’s hand is traveling forward (towards the Raiders’ goal line) when he is in the passing motion.

The Tape

Now, we need to go to the tape. Thanks to Chiefs.com for the footage and screen captures.

Frame 1: The Formation

After Smith calls the infamous “The Raven” audible. (Andy Reid’s biggest bye week project, in which Smith flaps his wings, shouting “Nevermore!”, indicating the ball is going to Dontari Poe.) The formation completely shifts to the right. From here your tilt will either begin again, or be soothed by logic.

The arrow shows alignment of Smith to Poe. Already, it’s not looking good.

Smith is under center, which is key. It puts Smith clearly ahead of Poe in the formation, from the start. Poe is on the 4, Smith on the 2. It’s as clear as day.

This may be evidence enough for our scorekeeper in the booth to send us all-a-titlin. But if that’s not enough, let’s look at this frame.

Frame 2: The Pass

None of this would have happened if Smith would have gone to the shotgun.

Remember the qualifications of a forward pass:

1- The ball goes towards the Raiders’ goal line.


2- Smith’s hand is traveling forward (towards the Raiders’ goal line) when he is in the passing motion.

Based solely on Poe’s alignment relative to Smith’s, it becomes immediately clear. Smith’s feet are basically on the 2–3 yard line, Poe’s on the 3–4. The movement of the pass is not towards the Raider’s goal line, from this angle. It simply can’t be. This is also the likely angle the scorekeeper watched from.

“What about Smith’s hand? If that’s going forward, then it can be qualified as a forward pass!”

Well, it stands to logic, that Smith can’t throw a pass to someone standing at one o’clock, with his hand moving towards eleven o’clock. Our scorekeeper friend knows that.

If he throws straight ahead, along the line, it’s still a lateral. If he throws to 11 o’clock, at Travis Kelce, it’s a forward pass, and it hits Kelce in the back and you say, “I think that counts as a red-zone target. Process is working.”

However, the combination of evidence makes the lateral decision pretty undeniable…

1- In formation, Poe is well behind Smith.

2- Poe is still behind Smith, at release of the ball.

3- Neither the ball, nor Smith’s hand, travel towards the Raiders’ goal line.

Clearly, the call was correct, there’s no disputing that. But, what’s also clear is that dude in the booth, was playing against Smith in season long.

Sean Kane is a contributor and editor for The Snooze. He is a former teacher and current stay at home dad, grooming his sons into DFS stat machines. In between snacks and naps, he writes his blog Fantasy Football Teacher, where he tries to provide accessible ideas to the every day fantasy player.

Sleeperbot- @kanesea, Twitter- @heymrkane

Website- FantasyFootballTeacher.wordpress.com