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Former graders: Split decision on Cruz catch




Football Zebras Roundtable

We covered at length the differences between two process-of-the-catch calls from Sunday’s games. Lions receiver Calvin Johnson had a touchdown taken away because he bobbled the ball as he went to the ground. Giants receiver Victor Cruz also had lost possession when he dove for the end zone, but his catch was ruled a touchdown. In our assessment, these calls were both correct.

Former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira agreed with the call on the Calvin Johnson play, but posted on Twitter that he did not agree with the call on the Victor Cruz catch.

To reach a consensus, we contacted Larry Upson and Jim Daopoulos, two former officiating supervisors, for their interpretation. Both worked under Pereira in the league office.

Calvin Johnson play

Call on the field: After replay, incomplete pass (video).

Larry Upson: I see the Calvin Johnson no-catch as a no-brainer. He clearly loses a catch and touchdown when, in the act of completing the catch, his right hand comes off the ball as the ball is bouncing off the turf. The movement is ever so slight, but more than enough to make this an incomplete pass.

Jim Daopoulos: Johnson was extended, making a great catch. Prior to getting his second foot on the ground, he was extending (after defensive contact) to the goal, and the ball contacted the ground and moved in his hands. By rule, this is an incomplete pass and correctly reversed and explained by referee John Parry.

Victor Cruz play

Call on the field: Complete pass, touchdown, no replay review (video).

Upson: On the Cruz play, the way I see it, the receiver is not going to the ground as a part of the act to complete the catch. He has completed the act and is now being tackled. As he is being tackled, he lunges toward the goal line (a second act) and loses the ball after it has broken the plane. We would handle this the same way we would handle any runner who loses the ball after it has broken the plane, no fumble.

Daopoulos: The officials are taught to look for three parts to the catch: (1) control the ball, (2) get two feet down, and (3) if those two things are accomplished, look for an act common to the game. Cruz caught the ball in an upright position, landed on both feet and was contacted by a defender. He lunged for the goal line and broke the plane in possession of the ball. This is a touchdown.

Here is the grading card for the plays:

  Daopoulos Pereira Upson
Calvin Johnson incomplete Checkmark Checkmark Checkmark
Victor Cruz complete Checkmark Ding Checkmark

The league declined to comment on the calls. Michael Signora, vice president of football communications, told Football Zebras, “Other than point out the rule, which you already know, we are not commenting on the specific judgment calls.”

Football Zebras Roundtable is a periodic feature we will present on an ad-hoc basis to analyze select calls with experts.

Images: Gavin Smith/Detroit Lions, New York Giants photo

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)