The NFL Catch Rule Revisited

Let’s revisit the NFL catch rule nearly a week after the Patriots vs Steelers showdown resulted in a touchdown reversal that might have cost the Pittsburgh Steelers home field advantage throughout the playoffs and possibly even, a first round bye.  

The fundamental problem with the NFL and the rule is that 99% of the people watching football know what a catch when they see one except the league office and it’s referees.  

Need proof?  Here is a direct quote from Alberto Riveron, the NFL’s vice president of officiating.

“As we can see, Roethlisberger completes a pass to James and James is going to the ground as he reached the goal line and that’s the key here, he is going to the ground,” Riveron said.

Huh?  Thanks for clearing things up, Mr Riveron.  How the hell is it possible that Roethlisberger “completes” the pass but it’s ruled incomplete?  That makes zero sense.  There’s a major problem when the NFL’s VP of Officiating can’t describe a catch in a way that makes sense.  

It doesn’t need to be difficult.  If a receiver has possession (with both feet, elbow, knee or butt on the ground) and the ball crosses the goal line then it’s a touchdown.  Sounds familiar doesn’t it?  It should.  It’s basically the same rule for how a touchdown for a RB is determined.  

Besides the utter stupidity of the current NFL Catch Rule, there is also a lack of consistency when implementing it.  A prime example is how the New England Patriots benefited from the wrong call (shocking, I know) earlier this year.  Brandon Cooks “caught” a game winning touchdown pass against the Houston Texans.  Doesn’t Cook need to “survive the ground”?  Whatever the hell that means…It sure looks to me that he lost control of the football when the ball hit the ground. Sound familiar?

How is that a touchdown catch and this isn’t?

Or this??


I asked the NFL office what happens if a wide receiver catches the ball on their own 10 yard line, runs the ball 90 yards, dives into the end zone and then loses control of the ball when the ball hits the ground.  Does that make the catch incomplete since the WR didn’t “survive the ground”?  Needless to say, I received no response.  

Not satisfied with no response, I asked Mike Pereira on Twitter Sunday night to explain the above scenario. He did just that on Monday during the Dan Patrick Show.  He stated that in the above scenario, you don’t need to “survive the ground” since the WR established themselves as a “runner”.  This only adds to the confusion.  What establishes a “runner”? 

With all this being said, I still think Jesse James caught the ball.  Not once have I scene conclusive evidence that would overturn the call on the field.  The ball can move and the ball can hit the ground as long as the WRs hands are underneath it.  Did the referees have conclusive evidence to overturn the call?  The keyword there is CONCLUSIVE.  


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