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Why Texans TD catch was upheld



Week 2: Texans at Titans

I knew once I saw the video of Jacoby Jones’s touchdown catch for the Texans that this would need explaining. It did not take long before and comment came in linking it to the Raiders’ overturned touchdown last week. (By the way, I vow that this is the last time that we will mention the Raider reversal—it has been thoroughly beaten to death.)

If you haven’t seen the play from the Texans game, here’s the video.

As we wrote last week, if a receiver is going to the ground, the receiver must maintain possession through to the ground. In the case of the Raiders touchdown, receiver Louis Murphy caught the ball, got two feet down, his butt landed in the end zone and then his torso landed. At that point the ball squirted out and touched the turf. By the rules, that is an incomplete pass, as the receiver did not maintain possession down to the ground.

As for the Texans touchdown, Jacoby Jones caught the ball falling to the ground. He bounced off of Cortland Finnegan of the Titans on his way to the ground. Finnegan then pulled Jones back down to the turf where Jones dropped the ball on the ground. The Raider Nation was looking for vindication: surely, this will be overturned on review.

Except the fact that the two plays are not the same.

When Jones lands on the opponent, he has gone to the ground, because the next thing that happens is that he gets pulled back up by Finnegan. Since Jones landed once, there is no requirement for him to land again on the ground. (Keep in mind, this is completely separate than the down-by-contact rule which says that the ball carrier is not down if he is on top of an opponent.) Had Finnegan not slightly lifted Jones, there might have been a case for a reversal.

In the Raiders situation, Murphy goes to the ground, first by his rear, and then continues downward. His rear contacting the ground is not enough (again, we are not applying the down-by-contact rules), as he was still going down to the ground.

I will admit it was a borderline call, but ultimately the right call. It was upheld on replay. Walt Coleman was the referee, Bill Spyksma was the replay official; as best I can tell, back judge Steve Freeman was covering on the play.