Controversial NFL Catch Rule

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In the last minute of a very important game between the Steelers and the Patriots, the Steelers had the ball and the momentum as they were getting close to scoring and potentially winning the game. Ben Roethlisberger threw a pass to Tight End Jesse James and James caught the ball, reached the ball over the goal line for the touchdown all in the act of falling. The referees ruled the play a touchdown on the field, which means there must be indisputable video evidence to overturn the call. When he fell, the ball touched the ground and bobbled around in his hands. By rule, that is not a catch. After reviewing the play for a long time, the referee said that the player “did not survive the ground” ruling it an incomplete pass. The next play the Patriots got the ball back and went on to win the game 27-24, clinching the 1st seed in the AFC.

The NFL rule book states in Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1,” A player is considered to be going to the ground if he does not remain upright long enough to demonstrate that he is clearly a runner. 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 until after his initial contact with 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.”

This is a very controversial rule in the NFL. There have been a lot of plays over the last two to three seasons that have affected many teams. Many people disagree with the rule including some people who work for ESPN. The NFL Commissioner said that changing the catch rule is a top priority this offseason. “I’m not just somewhat concerned, I am concerned,” Goodell said to Fox Sports when asked about his feelings on the rule.

A similar play recently just happened in the Super Bowl. Zach Ertz, the Eagles Tight End, caught a ball thrown by Nick Foles, in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, took two steps and dove into the end zone for the touchdown. When he hit the ground the ball started to bobble in his hands and many people were starting to question whether it was a catch or not. Many fans who were watching, thought back to the Jesse James play that happened earlier in the season. They ruled it a touchdown on the field, and it was upheld because Ertz took two steps demonstrating that he is a runner. When you’re a runner, you just have to cross the goal line. You do not have to “survive the ground.”

This rule needs to be changed. The Pittsburgh Steelers coach, Mike Tomlin, says he expects the catch rule to be revisited this offseason. It does not matter whether or not the player “survives the ground.” If a player catches the ball then loses the ball, it should be ruled a completed pass then a fumble. It is not right that a player can clearly catch a ball and then hit the ground and all of the sudden not be ruled a catch. They shouldn’t just reword the rule and tweak it a little bit. They should start from scratch and rewrite the rule completely. A catch should be ruled a catch when a receiver holds on to the ball long enough to show that he is a runner. After that, if he loses the ball, it should be ruled a catch, and then a fumble. In College Football, that is what the rule is like. The NFL should be just the same. This can’t continue to happen to teams in the NFL.

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