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The Safety vs. the Pats and the Rulebook?

If you're like me and forced yourself to struggle through the Phil Simms/Jim Nantz call yesterday without chopping your ears off, then you probably heard Simms describe Polamalu's final play of the game as "illegal" more than once, even evoking a Holy Roller analogy (terrible comparison of two plays).  Assuming that Polamalu deliberately punched the ball up field (not here to argue that... he did it on purpose), does anyone know how the rule book actually shakes out on the play?  Almost certain that you can not advance a deliberate fumble as an offensive player (i.e. Holy Roller), but how does it work for a defensive player?  Looking for a rules junky to enlighten. . .

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