Week 1: Chargers at Raiders
As a follow-up to our in-game post about the reversal to Louis Murphy’s touchdown call, referee Carl Cheffers spoke with a pool reporter following the game regarding the controversial call. The transcript:
Cheffers: We had a situation where the receiver caught the pass in the air and as he is coming down to the ground, he is actually going to the ground. That’s a defined term in our rule book, a player, a receiver who is going to the ground. The rule book says, if a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass, with or without contact by opponent—so that can be on his own; In this case, he got hit by an opponent—he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or in 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. That wasn’t the case. What we ruled, what we saw in replay, was that he was going to the ground, as he came down the ball came loose, he lost control of the ball, the ball skidded along the ground, he eventually completely lost control of the ball. So, by rule, by what we saw in review, it’s an incomplete pass.
Q: So, this has nothing to do with him having both feet down—it has nothing to do with that, it has nothing to do with making a football move? It’s just what you said there?
Cheffers: Yeah, he was up, I think if I remember, [on] one foot, he was getting contacted prior to his second foot coming down. By definition in our rule book, he’s going to the ground and has to maintain possession of the ball throughout the entire act of the catch. And in this case, he lost possession and the ball hit the ground. Therefore, it’s incomplete.
Q: It was pretty clear-cut?
Cheffers: Pretty clear-cut.
As a side note, the reference to “a football move” is old language to the determination of a catch. It is no longer used to define a reception.
In a tape release to the media, vice president of officiating, Mike Pereira, defined the catch in two circumstances. First, when a receiver is going to the ground (either on his own or due to contact by a defender), the receiver must maintain possession as he hits the ground.
The second situation is slightly more complicated. In situations where a receiver does not go to the ground, he must maintain possession for a recognizable element of time. In other words, a freeze frame or slow-motion replay by itself cannot be used to determine that the process of a catch has been completed. If it is nearly simultaneous that the second foot comes down and the ball is dropped—so much so that it can’t be determined without slow-motion—then it is incomplete. Replay reviews are shown at regular speed for final determination; this “element of time” perception is the language that replaced the “football move” determination.