FanDuel - WFBC

September 13, 2010

Calvin Johnson: Catch or no catch?: Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions thought their road victory drought was over until the referees ruled differently on Sunday.

posted by BornIcon to football at 08:25 AM - 39 comments

Jim Joyce is a great sports official. Not only was he in Detroit today umpiring second base for the Tigers/Orioles game, but he was able to get to Chicago to officiate the Lions last drive in their game against the Bears...

posted by MeatSaber at 04:50 PM on September 12

Yeah, I don't care about Detroit or Chicago, but that call in the end zone wasn't the right call. I go the impression he was putting his arm out to help himself stand up quickly (hence the "second move").

That's a tough way for Detroit to lose.

posted by grum@work at 05:05 PM on September 12

Video for those that may not have seen it.

So, he catches the ball, has control, and puts both feet down...how is that not a touchdown? If he was shoved out of bounds, it would be called a TD. I defy anyone to explain this rationally...

posted by MeatSaber at 05:09 PM on September 12

The call doesn't end with the second foot touching down. The receiver has to maintain possession throughout the "process" of receiving the ball. The rule covers when a receiver gets both feet down but loses the ball as he's landing on the ground.

Here, it seemed to me that Johnson did everything he needed to do. Terrible call.

posted by rcade at 05:30 PM on September 12

"I defy anyone to explain this rationally..."

The Lions aren't allowed to win.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 05:34 PM on September 12

Oh man, terrible call by the officials. I can't believe that the review couldn't convince the booth officials otherwise. Wow.

posted by NoMich at 05:38 PM on September 12

The receiver has to maintain possession throughout the "process" of receiving the ball

I'll just file that phrase with the NHL's "intent to blow the whistle" as sports officiating phrases invented to cover referee fuckups...

posted by MeatSaber at 06:13 PM on September 12

I don't see why you'd conclude that, Meat, given the number of times an incomplete pass is called because a receiver loses control of the ball as he collides with the ground. This isn't a weird rule that never comes up.

posted by rcade at 07:17 PM on September 12

My thing is that Johnson lands on the ground and then as he turns the ball comes out. I can't see how, with both feet down and then his torso landing, that can be called an incomplete pass.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 09:20 PM on September 12

I'll admit I don't watch tons of NFL games. I watch the Lions, and the odd MNF game during the season...maybe other games peppered here or there over the course of the season. I'll watch the playoffs if I'm not doing something else, and I always watch the Super Bowl. But in what experience I have, I can't remember one time where a receiver has clear control of the ball, comes down with 2 feet on the field, falls on his rear end, his knee hits the turf, then loses control of the ball, and it was called incomplete. I certainly know that it's not a widespread occurrence, because then I'd know I've seen it before. Now, I've seen receivers lose control of the ball at impact when they didn't have clear control of the ball, and I've seen receivers make diving catches that were called incomplete on impact with the ground. But neither of those happened here.

posted by MeatSaber at 09:41 PM on September 12

A slightly different case: Randy Moss caught a pass today that was ruled incomplete, despite the fact that he a)had both feet in bounds and b)didn't lose the ball. The reason for the ruling: he didn't have full control until after he went out of bounds. Nobody had a problem with it.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:55 PM on September 12

Refs took that one away from him. It was a catch. 'nuff said. Next?

posted by Spitztengle at 10:33 PM on September 12

Just to be contrarian regading the Johnson catch/no-catch, if Johnson had cradled the ball and wrapped it up under one arm instead of palming it, we probably aren't having this discussion. Still think it was a catch, though.

In somewhat related news, 20 yards rushing on 21 plays? If you remove negative plays, the Lions still have less than 40 yards rushing. 2.9 yards a play for the offense? I hope the Bears defense is freaking awesome this year, or it might be another long year for the Lions.

posted by Bonkers at 01:01 AM on September 13

That call was bogus. He clearly gets his feet down for the "first act", and then lands on his butt for the 'second act" he then spins to go celebrate at which time he loses the ball. He doesn't need a third act.

On a unrelated note, I'll be the Cowboys' trip home was not a happy one. Man, they stunk that up. Silly fumble right before halftime, missed an easy field goal, holding penaties up the whazoo, and horrible red zone offense. The racists get an ugly win.

posted by dviking at 01:56 AM on September 13

or it might be another long year for the Lions

It's been a long decade. sigh.

posted by apoch at 04:56 AM on September 13

I certainly know that it's not a widespread occurrence, because then I'd know I've seen it before.

We agree that this was uncommon, but for different reasons. The rule is commonly applied, but this call was uncommonly bad. I don't see how they view Johnson touching the ball to the ground as a continuous act from the catch.

posted by rcade at 08:43 AM on September 13

The rule in this situation is as follows:

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.

[Quoted here. Unfortunately, for some reason nfl.com does not post the entire rulebook verbatim but just a digest, so I can't verify that with an official source, but this is the rule as I have heard it before, so I'm fairly certain this is accurate.]

Per this rule, that play is NOT a catch. Similar to some of the golf rules discussions we have had recently, if you're upset about this outcome, your beef is with the rules, not the officials.

posted by bender at 09:25 AM on September 13

Guess I'm in the minority...seems a pretty blatant NON-CATCH, according to the rules. It wasn't like he was flipping the ball to the ref...he LOST the ball on the follow through.

Now I don't agree with the rule, but it's pretty clear cut to me at least: in a rule which mandates that he must maintain control throughout...he clearly did not. What Troy Polomalu did on his INT...now that is maintaining control throughout :-)

posted by bdaddy at 09:31 AM on September 13

Catch.

Real class take on the situation by Lions coach in post game interviews.

If there's a rule that makes it a non-catch, it's a garbage rule. Caught the ball without bobbling it, both feet down in the end zone and touched by an opposing player. Had he spiked the ball while standing, it would have been a TD.

posted by cixelsyd at 09:50 AM on September 13

The quote I kept hearing yesterday was that Johnson had to "complete the process of catching the ball". Is this a freakin' ISO audit, or a football game?

Johnson clearly caught the ball, and maintained possession throughout impact. Then he rolled over and put the ball down. He "completed the process of catching the ball" in the first sentence. It should have been a TD.

(Note: I do have Megatron on one of my fantasy teams.)

posted by TheQatarian at 09:52 AM on September 13

Did they change the rule that the ground cannot cause a fumble? Every other part of the catch was fine. Two feet on the ground and even a knee before the ball came out. I don't know what 2 step dance they want receviers to make now but that was a touchdown. I hope the Lions season doest't go down the tubes because of this, I thought and think they might be a sleeper team this season and wins some games 5 or 6. Now they got jobbed in the first game and the QB is out. It's a shame.

posted by gfinsf at 10:30 AM on September 13

No, the ground still cannot cause a fumble, but as it has always been, the ground CAN cause a pass to be incomplete. You have to have possession before you can fumble, and--like it or not--by rule possession had not yet been achieved.

To be honest, at the beginning of this, I was of the opinion that "it sucks for the Lions, but that's the rule." However, I don't even think that's the case for me anymore. NFL officials have a very difficult job, and this rule is worded in a way that takes subjectivity out of the equation. If you go to the ground while catching the ball, you have to come up with it, or you didn't catch it. How simple is that? If you have control of the ball when you hit the ground, you ought to be able still be holding onto the ball when you get up. If not, well, it's your job to catch the ball.

posted by bender at 10:56 AM on September 13

I think he went to ground when his butt landed. After that, all his moves were related to getting back up to celebrate the touchdown.

posted by rcade at 11:08 AM on September 13

From bender's quoting, the rule makes even less sense when compared with the ground equivalent - ball crosses the plane = touchdown (even if the ball comes loose, as it often does in a scrum, after crossing the plane).

posted by kokaku at 11:08 AM on September 13

he then spins to go celebrate at which time he loses the ball.

After that, all his moves were related to getting back up to celebrate the touchdown.

In postgame interview he said all he was thinking about was celebrating. Perhaps he should have spent more time concentrating on finishing the play.

Yet another reason players should act as if they have been in the endzone before rather than worrying about glorifying themselves.

posted by scully at 12:33 PM on September 13

I hate the rule, but believe it was applied correctly. The way I interpret that is that a catch is now not completed until the player has basically stopped doing anything related to the catch. So in that scenario, Johnson's momentum is still carrying him to the back of the end zone, he puts the ball down on the ground and loses it. No catch.

Of course, you'd think the more important factor would be the massive number of body parts that hit the ground while he has full control of the ball, but it isn't. My assumption is this rule is to keep receptions from being called when the receiver catches the ball at the sidelines, then falls out of bounds and loses control. It's an easier way for the ref on the field to say, "Sorry, no control all the way through, so no catch." Takes much of the ambiguity out of it.

Or at least they thought it would.

posted by wfrazerjr at 12:37 PM on September 13

I hate the rule but it was applied correctly. The receiver can only blame himself as if you are a professional receiver in the NFL you have to be an idiot not to know the rules. He did not have his head in the game and this is a case where his ego for celebration caused him to give away a victory his team desperately needed. When your job is being a pro - football receiver, there is no excuse for not knowing the rules and completing the catch.

I do think this rule should be changed especially in the end zone. Clearly the receiver did make the catch and had full control, but as soon as he allowed the ball to touch the ground and then come loose he lost the catch under the current rule.

posted by Atheist at 01:24 PM on September 13

That was a catch. He had to complete the falling process. The rule doesn't say that he should make sure the ball doesn't touch the ground when he decides to stand up. The touchdown had already been called by the referee closest to the ball. The whole thing is ridiculous and indefensible. I don't know how getting up could be the same as finishing the falling down process. I feel like I am in an alternative universe with people defending this absolutely ridiculous call.

posted by bperk at 01:34 PM on September 13

Every other time I've seen a play that looked even slightly like this one, it was a touchdown. I would love to see some video of similar calls because maybe I've just missed thirty or so years worth of "looked like touchdowns but weren't."

posted by Joey Michaels at 02:42 PM on September 13

I think that Deion Sanders on the NFL Network had the right take on it. When the play was being discussed, he held up a piece of paper and made it the symbol of the rule. He then tore the paper to shreds. It may be the rule, but it's idiotic, and some provision for the judgment of the official should be included. As it stands now, this rule makes NFL officiating look like a bunch of trial lawyers trying to determine what the meaning of "is" is.

Oh crap, I think I just agreed with something Deion Sanders said. Lord, save me.

posted by Howard_T at 03:17 PM on September 13

Every other time I've seen a play that looked even slightly like this one, it was a touchdown. I would love to see some video of similar calls because maybe I've just missed thirty or so years worth of "looked like touchdowns but weren't."

Peter King mentioned in his MMQB column that it is difficult to reconcile this call with the overturned call for a successful two point conversion catch by Lance Moore for the Saints in the Super Bowl.

posted by holden at 03:39 PM on September 13

Oh crap, I think I just agreed with something Deion Sanders said. Lord, save me.

Just be glad you didn't agree to this.

posted by BornIcon at 04:10 PM on September 13

Just be glad you didn't agree to this.

I'd have been glad not to have even clicked on it. I just about watched half of it. As Charles Barkley would say, "That's just turble. Just turble."

posted by Spitztengle at 05:22 PM on September 13

I feel like I am in an alternative universe with people defending this absolutely ridiculous call

I'm with you (about understanding how someone could argue about it), but on the opposite end of the argument:

Rule: "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."

- Did he maintain control of the ball after he touched the ground? No.
Evidence? The ball is not in his hand when he gets up.

Until he hands that ball to the ref or tosses it aside himself intentionally, that is a non-catch, per the rules. He didn't "toss it aside"...he LOST it. He even slightly hesitates after the ball rolls away from him as if to grab it again. He didn't INTEND to lose the ball, it came out of his hands. By definition NON-CATCH.

Now I don't agree with the rule (a catch is a catch in my mind..we all know he CAUGHT it, by using common sense), but by the rules it's a NON-CATCH. As the opposing coach said..I'm not even sure why they needed to review it.

posted by bdaddy at 06:18 PM on September 13

I don't follow your logic. He absolutely had the ball when he hits the ground. His whole backside hits the ground with the ball securely in his hand. Then, as he gets up, he puts the ball on the ground. He doesn't have control anymore. I did not see any slight hesitation indicating that he meant to hold on to it. Further, you are taking a whole additional step that requires him to have the ball when he gets up. That's not in the rule. He just has to have after he touches the ground. He did that. Additionally, I think the whole going to the ground rule comes into play if the player hasn't made the catch when he goes to the ground. But, Johnson had already had both feet touch and had the ball securely before he went down, and that is when it became a catch. Whatever happens after that is irrelevant. I think they needlessly and wrongly applied the going to the ground rule.

As holden points out, it is inconsistent with Lance Moore's much more dubious catch.

posted by bperk at 02:17 AM on September 14

The bottom line is, this was a touchdown. If you watch football, you know a touchdown when you see one. If a player if running towards the end zone with the ball, all he has to do is get the tip of the football over and it's considered a touchdown. Calvin Johnson caught the ball in the end zone, landed with both feet and even his backside touched the ground when he fell with the ball in his hands but when he went to get up is when the ball fell out of his hands. The refs got it wrong and the rule is just plain dumb. This was a touchdown, no question. The Lions got robbed.

posted by BornIcon at 07:14 AM on September 14

The NFL's vice president of officiating is "extremely pleased" with how this call was handled.

posted by rcade at 01:15 PM on September 14

If the Saints' two-point conversion is a catch, this is a catch. (But then the Saints got all the reviews in last season's playoffs: this one in the Super Bowl, and three out of three in overtime in the NFC Championship all went the Saints' way.)

posted by kirkaracha at 07:12 PM on September 14

If he was shoved out of bounds, it would be called a TD.

Nope. The NFL eliminated the force-out rule in 2008.

posted by kirkaracha at 07:21 PM on September 14

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