'Stabler rule' safety catches players off guard
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Eddie Lacy had never heard of the rule.
Most in the Green Bay Packers' locker room had no idea what the second-year running back had unknowingly done when he recovered an Aaron Rodgers fumble on the offense's final possession and attempted to advance it out of the team's end zone.
Since there were less than 2 minutes left in the game, the play was ruled dead because only the player who fumbled the ball (Rodgers) is allowed to recover it. It resulted in a safety and ended the Packers' hopes for a comeback in Sunday's 21-13 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
The rule was put in place to prevent forward fumbles after Oakland Raiders quarterback Kenny Stabler used such a maneuver to beat the San Diego Chargers 21-20 on Sept. 10, 1978. The play became known as "The Holy Roller."
"From what I hear, it was a safety as soon as I picked it up," said Lacy, who finished with 15 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown. "I don't know the rule, so I don't know."
He wasn't alone. Receiver Davante Adams, tight end Andrew Quarless and right guard T.J. Lang all said they didn't know exactly what the rule entailed.
"I wasn't aware of the rule that only the guy who fumbles is able to recover it," Lang said. "That was the explanation I got. Obviously it's a (expletive) way to end the game, but that's kind of how it went on offense. We just couldn't get anything working on offense."
It occurred on the first play of the Packers' final offensive possession. With JC Tretter replacing Bryan Bulaga (concussion) at right tackle, Bills defensive end Mario Williams beat him around the corner to knock the ball out of Rodgers' hand.
With Rodgers uncertain of where the ball was, Lacy was able to get to it a moment before another diving Buffalo defender, so his decision to pick it up likely saved a relatively meaningless touchdown.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy placed the blame on himself for not providing Tretter with help from a tight end or running back. McCarthy said he originally had another play in mind to start the drive from the Green Bay 10, adding it was his fault based on the protection call.
Regardless, Tretter was disappointed with how things played out.
"That's my job, that's what I'm here to do," Tretter said. "You've got to be ready at all times and you've got to be able to step in there and do what the team needs to do. That's just part of it. There's no pressure or anything like that, that's what you're here to do."