It looked like another great touchdown catch in the resume of Calvin Johnson and it looked like it was going to get the Lions started 1-0 in 2010. That’s what it looked like anyway. Instead it was an incomplete pass and the Lions started off in a familiar fashion…with a loss. Calvin Johnson jumped up, over the top of a defender, and landed in the end zone with the football. However, it was ruled an incomplete pass because the rule states that a receiver “must maintain possession of the ball throughout the entire process of the catch.” That is the rule. And by definition of the rule, Gene Steratore said it wasn’t a catch. However, I don’t know what else “Megatron” could’ve done. Was he supposed to carry the ball all the way to the bench before putting it down?
Maybe I don’t understand the rule completely or am blinded by the stupidity of the rule, but even after watching the replays, I don’t think there is anyone that could argue that he didn’t have possession of the football. I still think it was a catch. The rule itself is a horrible rule and needs to be changed. It’s unfortunate though because the Lions got robbed after fighting so hard to come back with their starting quarterback on the sidelines.
Former head of the NFL referees and current Fox NFL Analyst Mike Pereira joined WSCR in Chicago with Mully and Hanley to talk about the touchdown catch by Calvin Johnson that was overruled, explains why it was an incomplete pass, whether or not this rule has been addressed in the past, whether or not he thinks it’s going to change in the future, and the difference between a running back and a receiver when breaking the plane.
On when this rule came about?
“I really think it goes all the way back to Bert Emmanuel in the playoff game in 1999 or something like that or ‘98. This was a play when Emmanuel made the catch going to the ground and the ball touched the ground and he maintained control and it was reversed to an incomplete pass big play because the ball touched the ground. At that point the committee in that offseason looked at that and said just because the ball touched the ground you’re taking away great plays if in fact the player maintains control of the ball after touching the ground. After the Bert Emmanuel play they redid the interpretation and said okay now it’s going to be an issue of control and if you’re going to the ground you have to hold onto the ball after hitting the ground. Replays changed it that really it’s kinda changed the interpretation and it’s maybe expanded it a little more. It’s really black and white and eliminates the gray. That’s one of the things I like about some of the rules we have. The less gray the better. It just basically says after a while now, if you’re going to the ground, the onus is on you, you have to hold onto the ball and when the play is over you have to practically hand the ball to the official.”
On the rule being tough to understand:
“It’s really you look at them and you think of a couple of things. The ground can’t cause a fumble, but it can cause an incompletion. Ball is dead in possession of a runner when it breaks the plane, but the receiver is not a runner. He’s not a runner until he establishes possession by completing the catch. You’ve got a different element there and that’s why the plane means nothing. The plane means nothing until you actually become a runner. It’s part of a complex set of rules, but it’s the rules.”
On whether or not he thinks the rule will be changed:
“I think that’s a legitimate question. I will say this, we did spend time in the offseason with the competition committee looking at it because of the Louis Murphy play in Oakland didn’t pass the smell test some will say. I think they will say the same thing in the offseason next year. There’s going to be more of these, there are going to be 15 more of these before the seasons over. I think the committee, after looking at the plays last year, realizes it’s something that needs to be tweaked, but the big question becomes how? At what point do you say the process is over? You can’t just say when two feet are on the ground and when the ball pops out after he hits. It’s not an easy solution. It’s easy to say it doesn’t pass the smell test. It’s hard to figure out how to make it smell good.”
On Bears fans not agreeing with the rule, but taking the win:
“Yeah, well you always take ‘em no matter how you get them, but it’s kinda one of those where at the end of the game you get those big impact plays and it stirs discussion and I know what was going through Gene Steratore’s mind when he was looking at that. It’s obviously a big play, it was ruled incomplete, he’s got the element of going to the ground, the ball popped out after he hit the ground, and he has to go with the facts of the rules. It was a big play and certainly it’s generated tons of discussion.”