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The Rule Regarding James's Erstwhile Catch

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Did the Steelers get jobbed?? Is the NFL conspiring to prop up the Patriots Dynasty??


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cmasspatsfan

Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract
Here is how I think the NFL rule should be. And it would be consistent with their other rules on a completion.

We've often heard, once you caught the ball with control, took two steps or had 2 feet down, at that instance you have made the completion and now are considered a runner. What you do after that moment, you should be considered a runner.

Dez Bryant caught it, took 3 steps, goes down with contact at the 1 foot line. The moment his elbow touches the ground, he has had control, already taken 3 steps and the ground should not cause the fumble because he is now a runner. Ball control was made the whole way until his right elbow was down. Play over period.

This would be consistent with the other NFL rules if the NFL did it this way. I think the rule is inconsistent with the other rules of 2 feet in bounds, and ball across the goal line with control is an instant touchdown the moment control of the ball is demonstrated and crosses the plane.
But Dez would have to have been touched to be down when his knee hit the ground. If you're running and fall down and no one touches you, you can jump back up and keep running.
 

Simpelton

In the Starting Line-Up
I wouldn't call the "steps" Dez Bryant took controlled by any stretch. If he was trying to become upright he wasn't trying very hard. They weren't steps so much as attempts to kick off the ground and stay airborn long enough to reach the goal line. I think that a pretty fair distinction can be raised between what Dez Bryant did an actually becoming a runner, because Bryant was not in full control of his own trajectory when he pushed off the ground with his feet 1 oe 2 times before he hit the ground.

I'd have no problem at all calling what Bryant did part of the process of falling, as indeed, under the rules it was.
 

Patriot Missile

Pro Bowl Player
Everyone needs to talk about about that incomplete catch Juju got open on a pick play that should have been called. None of that would have happened.

Gonna let that one go. He already beat Rowe out of coverage and he was dusted either way. Think the catch was already made split second before so then it becomes a rub. The other Steeler was running his route followed by a defender and didnt deviate from that. Great play in my book.
 

Boogs

In the Starting Line-Up
But Dez would have to have been touched to be down when his knee hit the ground. If you're running and fall down and no one touches you, you can jump back up and keep running.
I think he was touched in the air. Maybe that doesn't matter?

Are you saying touched after he got 2 feet down with control?
 

Simpelton

In the Starting Line-Up
You DON'T have to be touched in that situation unless the catch is complete. The catch is NOT complete if the ground knocks the ball loose. The Dez call was correct for exactly the same reason the James call was correct. The Moore call mentioned earlier was a successful 2 point conversion exactly because Moore controlled the ball through the ground and it was only dislodged after he was already fully on the ground.
 

Dr Pain

In the Starting Line-Up
Why no talk about flag picked up on Steelers 1st TD for ineligible man downfield? Replay clearly showed 2 linemen almost 5 yards downfield. The refs screwed the Patriots and gave the Steelers a TD when they cheated. They called the penalty and picked up the flag.
 

Bobsyouruncle

Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract
Stupid question for you guys regarding his knee being down on this. Wondering if someone can clarify.

I've always thought even of you're not touched the knee being down is a dead ball. Why wasn't he considered down at around the one once his knee was down even before he broke the plane? I'm guessing I'm just thick and you do need to be touched? I'm guessing there is a separate rule for when say a QB takes a knee at the end of a game or a returner takes a knee in the endzone?
Being down or "breaking the plane" only come into play if you have completed the catch. You cannot complete the catch without possession. Possession must occur before being downed can ever occur. The NFL rules say he never possessed the ball so the knee is irrelevant.

It is like if the QB threw the ball at a player sitting on his knees, and the ball bounced off his hands incomplete. That's how the NFL sees it. You cannot be down without possession.
 
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JoeSixPat

Pro Bowl Player
This is it 100%. You can tell from all of the cries of "it broke the plane!" We're so used to cases where the runner or receiver already has possession and is trying to get into the end zone that we've come to think of "breaking the plane" as the definition of a TD. But it's really breaking the plane with possession.

Here's the key to understanding the play, IMO:

Incomplete passes "break the plane" all the time. And they don't count.

The QB throws into the end zone, the ball bounces off the receiver's hands to the ground, incomplete pass. The QB throws into the end zone, the receiver makes the catch but only gets one foot in before landing out of bounds, incomplete pass. The receiver makes the catch in the air, dives for the end zone, the ball hitting the ground and moving in his hands as he lands...incomplete pass.

Should the definition of a completion be changed? Perhaps, though it may be a case of "this is the worst possible rule except for any other rule I can think of." (As OTG notes, you need a rule that the refs have a prayer of perceiving in real time, not just super-slo-mo.) In any case, "breaking the plane" will ALWAYS be only half of what's required for a touchdown.

Well said - I'm the first to welcome the NFL to review/improve on any rules.

One can make the case that in the Jets/Pats game a "better" rule would be to say a fumble out of bounds in the end zone need not be considered a touchback any more than any other fumble out of bounds

Though even there - we can all agree the rules needs to be equally and fairly applied to ALL teams - not just suspended when it benefits a Patriots opponent. (i.e. no TD in the Jets game and the rule was applied as written.)

In this case we ALL see him lose control of the ball and can see the ball hit the ground.

I suppose if someone wants to change the rule to say "you don't have to actually catch the ball as long as it's touching your hand in the end zone" so be it - that would have made that a TD.

But anyone watching that video should have the common sense to see he didn't maintain control and the ball hit the ground, so I'm more confused as to why THIS play is considered controversial than with the Jets game (where I think one can make a strong case to amend the rule.)

Bottom line - as with the Raiders and the Snow Bowl, neither Pittsburgh nor its fans will EVER accept that they had ample chances to win the game in the subsequent plays.

The Patriots simply play 60 minutes start to finish and other teams prefer to play LESS than 60 minutes and have the rules selectively enforced to help them win.
 

The Brandon Five

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I didn't know that was how they argued it for not being a catch.
But IMO, I thought he did have control.

I thought they argued that it came loose after he hit the ground.
Right, but if he had taken steps while having control I don't think hitting the ground would have mattered.
 

Nunchucks

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Wow, I guess people are being deliberately obtuse. This is a very straightforward rule and easy to interpret. If somebody is falling down while catching the ball, they have to establish possession. Now, that can be as simple as keeping the ball off the ground and holding on to it. However, if the ball moves due to contact with ground, then it is incomplete, as the receiver did not maintain control. If the receiver chooses to lunge without first getting under control and loses control due to the ball hitting the ground...not a catch.

Simple as pie.
 

QuantumMechanic

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Stupid question for you guys regarding his knee being down on this. Wondering if someone can clarify.

I've always thought even of you're not touched the knee being down is a dead ball. Why wasn't he considered down at around the one once his knee was down even before he broke the plane? I'm guessing I'm just thick and you do need to be touched? I'm guessing there is a separate rule for when say a QB takes a knee at the end of a game or a returner takes a knee in the endzone?
This isn't college. You have to be touched down by a defender to be down.

However, you can choose to obviously and voluntarily take a knee and give yourself up and have the play be declared dead by the refs even without any contact. (I actually think it doesn't specifically have to be a knee. If you go down and make no effort to get up I think the refs will blow the play dead after a couple of seconds.)
 

QuantumMechanic

Burn it all down!
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Because that isn't the rule for catching the ball. It's simple. If you leave your feet to make a catch, the ball has to survive contact with the ground for the catch to be complete. A knee down or your butt down doesn't matter if the ball comes out when you hit the ground.

I do not believe you have to "leave your feet" for the surviving-the-ground conditions to come into effect. Merely "going to the ground" while making the catch triggers them, I'm pretty sure (classic case is a stumbling catch where the receiver never jumps but falls to the ground during the catch process).
 

Off The Grid

Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal
Posted this on another thread but thought it relevant here, with a couple of changes based on previous comments.

Yes, it is similar to the tuck rule game in that it was a controversial call (i.e., game changing) that some people acknowledged followed the written rule but should not have been called anyway (to me, a curious position to have. What is the NFL, or any organized sport, without strict rules and an adherence to them? What is this, the NBA?). The difference, to me, is that the tuck rule was an obscure provision that most people did not know about (at the time I thought the fumble call was going to be overturned as an incomplete pass because TB's arm was moving forward) so it was abnormal and confused people, but the rule for a catch requiring the ball to be controlled to the ground is a pretty normal, commonplace provision that is invoked all the time.

In this instance, the ball clearly rotated when James slammed it on the ground in the end zone - the only thing that could have caused that rotation was the ground, and you can see that he momentarily lost then regained hold of the ball. To me, the only question was if him putting his knee down before twisting around and putting it on the ground somehow interrupted his fall to the ground. It's pretty clear it did not, but was part of the act of him falling, so it wasn't a catch. The fault lies with the receiver, who afterwards was quoted as saying he didn't realize it wasn't a catch. He certainly knew that the ball rolled around a little when he hit the ground with it, so James's fault was 1) not maintaining control of the football all the way to the ground and 2) not knowing the rules specific to his position. He was simply trying too hard and ruined the play by doing so, a not infrequent occurence in the NFL.

Redefining "football move" to allow a receiver to lunge for the end zone or first down is a bad idea. The idea of "football move" is that it conclusively shows that the receiver established control. Lunging for the end zone has nothing to do with whether the ball is in control. In fact, it would basically allow for a more undisciplined standard for a receiver, saying, hey it's ok you didn't have full control of the football, you scored man. Now, if the league wants to increase scoring, offense, etc., fine, but not to clarify whether a ball is caught or not.

Like I said before, acknowledging that a call followed a rule but should not have been called anyway is an untenable position, It is based upon emotion and subjectivity and can't be taken seriously. And to say that the rules committee will change it after the season is ridiculous as well. Change it to what? That a receiver can let a thrown ball roll around on the ground and still call it a catch? Ordinarily, it is a no brainer, the only difference here is that his knee hit ground first and he broke the plain before putting the ball on the ground. Close calls shouldn't be the reason to change or not correctly call rules, and on replay, it appears this wasn't that much of a close call. As the official said, the knee and breaking the plain have nothing to do with him controlling ball to ground. It's just that the Steelers lost a close one in a significant game and a lot of people hate the Patriots. Those aren't good reasons not to follow the rule, either.

Brilliant breakdown. Thanks, Brother Billikens. :D
 

patsfan13

Hall of Fame Poster
PatsFans.com Supporter
Stupid question for you guys regarding his knee being down on this. Wondering if someone can clarify.

I've always thought even of you're not touched the knee being down is a dead ball. Why wasn't he considered down at around the one once his knee was down even before he broke the plane? I'm guessing I'm just thick and you do need to be touched? I'm guessing there is a separate rule for when say a QB takes a knee at the end of a game or a returner takes a knee in the endzone?



Yup I misread that he wasn't touched at the 1.
 

Ring 6

PatsFans.com Supporter
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Right, but if he had taken steps while having control I don't think hitting the ground would have mattered.
Of course because then he wouldn’t be going to the ground while making the catch which is the situation this rule applies to.
 

Digit

Practice Squad Player
Changing it would probably cause more problems.

Say you change it so he has control and has a body part down. (The first half of Jesse James' 'catch'.)

I can picture a similar circumstance where someone is in the air and is coming down on tiptoes. Because you've decided already that he has control when he touches down with the ball in his grasp, people are going to just nail him hard to try and jar that ball loose instead of pushing him out of bounds or shoving him down and hoping he can't control the ball to the ground, because it will be considered a fumble and not an incompletion at that point. Still a defenseless receiver, IMO, and he is a sitting duck.

And frankly, that feels like the sort of play that you'd absolutely tee off on WRs and TE's playing with not-very-accurate QBs, going for the fumble call.

I mean, in my opinion, the benefit of getting a fumble vs an incompletion in that sort of scenario (as well as the chance to make the receiver pay for the completion) would be well worth the risk to just go right for the player/ball than to let him play it to the ground, since the risk of 'defenseless player' penalty is much lower, I think.

How can you -call- a penalty for 'a defenseless receiver' if he's 'got control' in that sort of scenario?

If that 'rule' was in effect for James at that goal line, they wouldn't be letting him fall to the ground, they would be trying to converge to hit him while he's falling trying to get the fumble call and hope it's before he cross the goal line. I have no doubts that Belichick would change his coaching to get his players to do exactly that sort of thing.
 
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billikens

Practice Squad Player
I guess I can continue my gripe about people acknowledging the rule, and that is was called correctly, but still shouldn't have been called. Article in Globe today *****ing about instant replay and that, while it allows for plays to be called more correctly, somehow introduces red tape into the game by the "suits from New York." Again, not sure what this guy is saying. If the play is called correctly, and instant replay allows that call to be more accurate, how is that red tape? For a baseball analogy, if replay shows the runner to first is a microsecond behind the throw, the runner is out. Even if the human eye could not distinguish that split second. Pretty black and white once broken down, and how else should the official call it once obvious?

Same with football. The touchdown called back yesterday against Buffalo showed the receiver's feet down, and him in control of the football, but not at the same time. As he was dragging his foot he transferred the ball from one arm to another. Both have to happen simultaneously, and as with the touchdown in Pittsburg last week called back, I place blame squarely on the receiver. Make sure your feet are down and don't transfer the football until you do so. That's your job, man, even if it is kind of unnatural as you're falling out of the end zone at the time. But that's why you get paid really, really well to play a game.

Instant replay is not a conspiracy, and in my earlier thread comparing it to NBA officiating, are they going to now make calls inconsistently based upon something other than the physical facts, just because those facts need to be slowed down and replayed on video a couple of times to sort them out? Kobe can travel while some rookie from a nowhere school will get called for same play? I remember the days before replay, when a sucky or even game changing call was shown afterwards to be grossly incorrect. Everyone pissed off (except for fans and team that benefitted) and I believe that was bad for the game. Making correct calls through instant replay definitely effects people's emotional and subjective perception of the play, or the rule that is called, but again as I said in my last post, neither one of those should be the basis for officiating.

The best way for any sport to be officiated, as all any sport is is a set of rules, is for the rules to be followed as literally as possible and applied consistently to both teams. Tuck rule, catch rule, whatever. Don't like the rule, fine try to get it changed in off season. But while the rule is on the books, don't ***** that the officials applied it or that instant replay overturns what otherwise at first glance looks to be an opposite call. Or you're pissed off it went for or against a certain team.
 

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