NFL Catch Rulings That We Don’t Understand: Week 6 Edition
Here's something you most definitely will not be surprised to hear: Walt Anderson made a weird, controversial call in the Bears at Lions game on Sunday afternoon. This one was exceptionally bizarre because if ruled one way, it's a Golden Tate touchdown for the Lions. If ruled the other way, it's a James Anderson interception for the Bears.
Before we go any further, watch the play in real time and on replay:
So just to recap: Golden Tate caught the pass at the half-yard line. Just as he entered the end zone and had begun to take steps to establish a "football move", the ball was stripped by the defender covering him. The ball bounced around in the air before finally being hauled in by James Anderson for what appears to be an interception.
The ruling on the field was an interception, which despite the bizarre chain of events that led to it, seemed to most viewers to be the right call. In the video, you can hear the commentator explaining why Tate would have had to maintain possession of the ball in order for it to be ruled a touchdown.
It all seems fairly cut and dry. It's a heart breaker for Tate, but that's the way it goes, right?
Except apparently it's not.
Head ref Anderson reversed the call, saying that it was a touchdown and vaguely explaining that Tate had taken steps before crossing the plane. First of all, in order for the call to be overruled and reversed, Anderson would have had to see indisputable evidence that it was in fact a complete catch rather than an interception.
Fox's former NFL referee turned analyst Mike Pereira disagreed with Anderson's call, maintaining that the officials in New York did not have the evidence to overturn the call, as the ball was already out when Tate's third foot hit the ground.
“To me, the process is you have to maintain control of the ball until you clearly become a runner in this case because the ruling on the field was that he didn’t.”
Meanwhile on NFL RedZone we heard from the NFL's Head of Officiating Dean Blandino, who had a totally different interpretation, concluding that it was indeed a touchdown catch and that it should have been ruled as such because Tate became a runner before the ball came loose. Blandino asserts that this is a different situation than the infamous Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant catches that were ruled incomplete due to the fact that they did not maintain possession and complete a football move as they went to the ground.
"When you watch the play, when the ball comes loose he is taking his third step," explained Blandino. "The third step is almost on the ground when the ball comes out. He had demonstrated possession, had become a runner. Once the ball breaks the goal line in the possession of a runner, it is a touchdown and the play is over at that point."
So if you compare Pereira's assessment to Blandino's, you see that they each have two completely different interpretations of that third step and how it affects the call. They flat out contradict each other. How is it possible that the NFL and its refs simply cannot nail down a comprehensive understanding and agreement on the most fundamental part of a football game?
This is yet another reminder that the rules regarding a catch in the NFL are basically just a jumble of words on a page that are open to interpretation. So that's fun.
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