In the NFL, if a player on the punting team touches the ball first before it lands in the end zone, a player on the return team can scoop it up and advance it without worrying about a fumble; the turnover wouldn’t count against them. Raiders return man Dwayne Harris is quite familiar with this rule, and it helped him score a 99-yard touchdown Monday night.
The highlight was a beautiful turn of fortune. It looked like Denver’s Isaac Yiadom had made the most of Colby Wadman’s punt and pinned the Raiders inside the one-yard line, but then Harris snatched the ball and opened up some space as he ran along the sideline. (The play was reviewed to see if Yiadom’s foot was in the end zone, as that would’ve instead been a touchback, but the ruling was confirmed.)
Harris, a wide receiver, has primarily been on special teams throughout his eight-year career, so he had not only the speed but the awareness to pull this off. He had discussed the rule earlier this month with Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Harris’s score was the first of the game as his team beat the Broncos in Oakland, 27-14. The Raiders’ fourth win of the season allowed head coach Jon Gruden to get some excitement back in his voice:
This game might have also been the last at the Oakland Coliseum, since the city is now suing the team as well as the NFL. Oakland won’t have Grudes to kick around anymore! It’s unclear who will get that luxury next season.