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Process of the catch ‘was a judgment call’



Week 11: Chargers at Broncos (video)

The process of the catch is not a simple concept for fans in general, but there are two distinct elements once a player has two feet in bounds:

  • If the player is not falling to the ground, he must make a (or have the ability to make) a football move while maintaining control of the ball.
  • If the player is falling to the ground, there is no football move requirement, but the player must maintain control of the ball through to the ground.

Catches that look like catches are ruled incomplete. Fans have revolted. The “process of the catch” rule is trotted out, and sportsradio has something to talk about for three days.

Now, we don’t know how to define a catch.

In the fourth quarter, a touchdown catch by Chargers receiver Danario Alexander seemed to be just that type of catch that is overturned via replay. However, the call on the field was upheld by referee Carl Cheffers, confirmed, in fact, when it seemed clear that it should have been incomplete. Cheffers ruling was that the player created a “second act” by reaching for the end zone, and did not consider the player going to the ground, even though he was falling into the end zone

An NFL spokesman responded to our e-mail that this was not a misapplication of the rule, but that it was a judgment call. Bold emphasis is by the league.

Referee Carl Cheffers applied Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3(c). It was a judgment call. Thanks.

Article 3 Completed or Intercepted Pass. A player who makes a catch may advance the ball. A forward pass is complete (by the offense) or intercepted (by the defense) if a player, who is inbounds:

(a) secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground; and

(b) touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands; and

(c) maintains control of the ball long enough, after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, to enable him to perform any act common to the game (i.e., maintaining control long enough to pitch it, pass it, advance with it, or avoid or ward off an opponent, etc.).

And there may be some wiggle room in there for the league. Maybe by midweek, we will have word from Carl Johnson, the NFL vice president of officiating, that the judgment call was a bad judgment call.

But as far as the NFL is concerned, the ruling on the field stands.

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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