September 12, 2010
When is a catch not a catch? When it happens in the NFL, apparently.
Officials overturned what should have been a game-winning touchdown by Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson(notes) on Sunday due to a preposterous, counterintuitive rule that says a catch is only a catch in the NFL if the "process" of said catch is complete. Confused? Don't worry, so is the rest of America.
Johnson had made a one-handed grab with 31 seconds left in the game that would have given the Lions a late lead over the Chicago Bears. But as he fell to the ground, he braced himself with the ball, which then popped out of his hand. Because of this, and despite the fact that Johnson had gotten two feet and a tailbone down in the end zone, the pass was ruled incomplete. A replay review upheld the decision.
"The runner did not complete the catch in the process of the catch"? Leave it to the NFL to make the simple concept of catching a ball as convoluted as Senate procedure for filibustering.
Don't blame the refs for this one. They made the correct decision as dictated by the rule book. The fault lies with the rule itself. Why do there have to be so many conditions to a catch? Toddlers know when a ball is caught and when it isn't. Aside from getting two feet in, what more does the NFL want people to do? Should Calvin Johnson have brought the ball with him to the sideline? Should he hold it for the flight home? Take it to dinner? When does the process of a catch end?
This is like the infamous "tuck rule." It goes against all logic. We know when a ball is fumbled and we know when a ball is caught. This ball was caught. The Detroit Lions should have taken the lead on the Bears and been in a position to win their first road game in nearly three years.
Instead we're left with another rule controversy in the NFL. And it's only Week One.
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