Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, right, prepares to flip the ball to running back Mike Davis in the second half of Sunday night’s win over Philadelphia. Officials ruled the controversial play backward and thus legal, though it appeared to perhaps be forward and worthy of an uncalled penalty. Tuesday, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explained why. Ted S. Warren AP
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, right, prepares to flip the ball to running back Mike Davis in the second half of Sunday night’s win over Philadelphia. Officials ruled the controversial play backward and thus legal, though it appeared to perhaps be forward and worthy of an uncalled penalty. Tuesday, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explained why. Ted S. Warren AP

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“Galilean Transformation.” Of course! Neil deGrasse Tyson responds to Russell Wilson flip play

December 05, 2017 02:25 PM

UPDATED December 05, 2017 04:22 PM

The Cosmos master has spoken.

Typed, actually. And he concurs with Pete Carroll.

Astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson posted his response Tuesday to Seahawks coach Carroll asking him to explain how Russell Wilson’s wondrous flip into the open field Sunday against Philadelphia that game officials ruled a legal lateral backward appeared forward.

FYI: The lateral that @DangeRussWilson threw to @MikeDavisRB in Sunday’s @Seahawks @Eagles game was a legit “Galilean Transformation”. In their reference frame, the ball went backwards. It’s not their fault they ran forward faster than the ball. pic.twitter.com/DHUKNtlcyj

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) December 5, 2017

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Carroll’s response Tuesday, on Twitter: “Science speaks! Thanks @neiltyson!”

So there it is. It appears the NFL rulebook needs a physics tweak to include Galilean Transformation.

Who knew?

Dr. Tyson did. Carroll knew he would.

"I just want to see what Dr. Neil has to say about that. To try to help you guys out,” Carroll said Monday, the day he asked Tyson for his opinion.

"It clearly looked like he pitched the ball backwards. But everybody kept moving."

Carroll moved his hand forward to mimic the path of Wilson’s pitch in flight.

Early in the 2016 season Carroll and the Seahawks invited Dr. Tyson, the host of television’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, to a practice. Tyson accepted. He broke down the players in their post-practice huddle in the middle of the field--while telling the Seahawks about the universe.

"He did visit here, so we had an afternoon together," Carroll said. "He really likes football, so I felt like that’s enough of an open ticket to get ahead and give him a call on something like this.

"He’s kind of the national resident on stuff like this. I’m really hoping—I’m counting on him responding before long, so we can put it out there."

Wilson’s improvisational flip to running back Mike Davis while two Eagles converged on the quarterback added 17 more yards to a 23-yard play in the fourth quarter Sunday night, when the Seahawks were holding onto a 17-10 lead. Wilson’s pitch play led to Seattle’s clinching touchdown in its 24-10 win.

The officials on the field ruled Wilson’s pitch backward and thus legal. The Eagles could have challenged that ruling and called for a replay review, but Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson never did.

“Real time, it looked fine. It looked legit,” Pederson said after the game. “We didn't get all the necessary looks (from Eagles coaches in the press box). They hustled to the line. But at the same time, it looked good, and I trust the guys upstairs making those decisions and didn't challenge that. I already challenged one in the half and lost that, so I didn't want to risk another timeout."

Or maybe Pederson watches Dr. Tyson’s Cosmos, too.

Mike Pereira, former vice president of officiating for the NFL, tweeted Monday: “Forward or backward is judged by where the ball is when it leaves the passers hand to where it first touched the ground or a player. Forget that Wilson tried to throw it backwards. It was tough to judge on the field by the officials but the Eagles could have challenged and won.”

Carroll pantomimed Wilson’s right-handed flip while he said: "It looked like the guy was running really fast, pitched the ball backwards like he is supposed to, and as the speed of the ball that was traveling with the ball carrier at the time, it was passed along the football. And it all just happened, so…

Wilson joked the lateral down the field is "not in the progression" of receivers he looks for on a given play.

"The lateral is definitely not in the progression," Wilson said.

"You grow up playing in the snow, you grow up playing recess and playing around. Do you practice those things? Sometimes. There’s little things you visualize, and next thing you know, he’s right there to my right.

"He’s a baller. When you play pickup basketball, you want to get ballers on your team. We have some great ballers. Mike Davis is one of those guys."

Wilson didn’t sound like he needed Dr. Tyson’s breakdown of the physics of his lateral being backward.

"I just stepped up. I knew I was past the line, I was about to run for the first down, and the next thing I know, here comes Mike Davis," Wilson said. "Like I said, I had a baller to my right, and I gave him a chance, and he gets a big first down, a huge first down. It really kept the clock running, kept the drive running, and I believe we scored that drive.

"That was huge."

And fun.

Carroll said he in fact coaches Wilson, a master of taking care of the ball, to take that risk of pitching the ball back in the open field to an uncovered back.

"I do not not coach that," Carroll said.

"I was taught a long time ago, really by Coach (Bud) Grant (when Carroll was a 33-year-old assistant with Grant’s Minnesota Vikings in 1985), that if you have really good players and really good athletes and they feel comfortable, laterals are one of the best plays in the game. He said that years ago.

"There’s some guys you tell, ‘You can’t do that.’ There are some guys. Russ made the point in working with Mike; Mike, you can see, was looking for the ball. So sometimes those special things happen, with a terrific player that can pull it off.

"But it’s not something that’s going to happen on a regular basis."