Saturday, October 19, 2013

The NFL's "Going to the Ground" Gray Area

N.F.L. Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1: Going to the ground. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.

February 7, 2010
Super Bowl XLIV in Miami, Florida: Lance Moore received a pass for a two-point conversion and attempted to stretch the ball out over the goal line as he fell to the ground. The play was ruled an incomplete pass, prompting a coach's challenge from Sean Payton. After the review, the ruling on the field was overturned when it was determined that Moore maintained possession of the ball long enough and the ball had crossed the plane of the goal line for a successful conversion, giving the Saints a 24–17 advantage.

The N.F.L. defended that call by saying the play was dead as soon as Moore had possession and made a second act of breaking the plane of the goal line. That rule took precedence because Moore hadn’t made a catch as defined by the “going to the ground” rule.

September 12, 2010
When Lions receiver Calvin Johnson outjumped Chicago’s Zack Bowman in the end zone with 26 seconds left in the fourth quarter, he appeared to make a 25-yard touchdown catch. “I figure if I got two feet and a knee down, to me that is a catch; that’s why I got up and took off,” he told reporters.

September 19, 2010
With 3:12 left in the first quarter, the Eagles had the ball at their own 48-yard line, and Michael Vick threw a deep seam route to DeSean Jackson down the left side. Fortunately, the call was challengeable, and first-year head official Clete Blakeman actually did get it right in reversing the call and deeming the play an incompletion. If there's no gray area, why did former head of officiating Mike Pereira, who commented on the play in his role as a FOX analyst, seem unsure whether it would be upheld or overturned?

September 8, 2013
Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson's 20-yard touchdown catch was overturned after replays showed Johnson lost control of the ball when he fell in the end zone.

September 8, 2013
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning finds wide receiver Victor Cruz for an 18-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

September 22, 2013
Washington Redskins wide receiver Aldrick Robinson's would-be go-ahead touchdown catch was overturned during the second half against the Detroit Lions in Landover, Md. The play originally was ruled a legal catch and a touchdown by the officials on the field. It was ruled after the review that Robinson had failed to maintain possession of the ball as he tumbled to the turf in the end zone. Referee Ed Hochuli announced “the ball was rolling on the ground.” The Lions defeated the Redskins 27-20.

“The camera view was on my right side,” Robinson said. “When I came down with the ball, I had it secured in my [left] hand the whole time. I’m just trying to brace myself to the ground. But, I mean, naturally my whole body was moving, and the ball was in my hand. So the ball moved with my body. It kind of looked like the ball was sliding on the ground. But . . . it was a touchdown. I had control of the ball the whole time.”

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