For a second there, Victor Cruz looked like a goat. The Giants receiver came up with a big catch in what would prove to be the team’s winning touchdown drive against the Cardinals, but then lost (or willingly ceded) control of the ball before he was touched, and the Cardinals recovered. But what could have been a crushing fumble wasn’t so: referees ruled Cruz “gave himself up” in going to the ground. In such a scenario, a coach’s challenge doesn’t apply, so Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt’s protest was in vain.
The problem: it didn’t actually look like Cruz had “given himself up” – it looked like he stumbled and lost the ball on his way down, which would have given the Cardinals the ball. That was the opinion of rules analyst Mike Pereira, who said that while the referees’ call was correct in the event of a ballcarrier actually giving himself up, he didn’t believe Cruz had truly done so. And by the time Pereira and the announcers were finished trying to sort things out, the Giants were busy taking the lead with what turned out to be the winning touchdown. Needless to say, they’re fine with the call.
UPDATE: After watching this play a little more, as best we can tell, Cruz didn’t look like he went to the ground by choice – the word ‘SPLAT!’ practically appeared above him in big bubble letters as he went down. But he got up without the ball – without even appearing to really try to get the ball – so at the least, he must have thought he was down. And that’s where one might argue the call was correct: that Cruz fell to the ground, then made no effort to advance the ball, so the play should have been dead.
However, the Cardinals and their fans can just as easily – and undoubtedly will – argue that since Cruz no longer had possession of the ball when he hadn’t yet been touched, it should have been a fumble. But there’s at least some gray area here. (And one more note: as far as our view on the call, SI‘s Andy Glockner pretty much articulated our exact thought in this tweet.)