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Officiating Dept. Video

Blandino defending catch process: ‘We do think on the Tate play that it was clear’



The league’s weekly video to the media by vice president of officiating Dean Blandino reviewed three items from Week 6 action.

  • The process of the catch, centered on the controversial touchdown catch by Lions receiver Golden Tate that was initially ruled an interception by the Bears. This is different than other catch-process calls that have come up this season, as Tate is not going to the ground. Blandino stands behind the call he made in replay:

    It is one of the few areas and replay where we do get involved in subjective judgment. And the initial premise behind replay, when it was first put in, was objective fact — the ball touching the ground, the foot touching the sideline, the knee being on the ground. But now when we’re involved in these catch/no-catch plays, there is judgment involved in terms of control — is it control, is it lack of control, is the ball just moving, is the player going to the ground, is he upright — and then does he have it long enough; that time element which is probably the most subjective part. And the bottom line is, and I get it, if it is so subjective and it’s close to then the ruling on the field should stand. And it is our intention that’s what we always go with. We want to make sure its clear and its obvious. We do think on the Tate play that it was clear that he had three feet down with control, therefore demonstrating possession. But we’re not going to change our approach in terms of if it is close and it’s not clear and obvious, the call on the field will stand.

    This still remains a head-scratcher in officiating circles. While the catch process has narrowed the window of subjectivity, when it does become a judgement call, the bar of consistency seems to be a moving target. And, unfortunately, I’m sure this isn’t the last time this will come up this season.

  • As we covered on Sunday, there were two questions regarding a muffed punt by the Lions: was Corey Fuller actively blocking when he was pushed toward the ball, and did he actually touch it? The active/passive question is not reviewable in replay, but since Fuller was engaged in a block, he does not immediately become a passive player as soon as he disengages. As for whether the ball is touched, this is reviewable. It appears as if Fuller did touch the ball, but the very strict criteria of indisputable evidence did not confirm that the ball was touched. Since the ruling on the field was that Fuller was actively blocking and did touch the ball, that call stood. (Notably, if the ruling on the field was no touch, replay would have allowed that to stand, even though it is pretty clear it was touched.)
  • When Steelers quarterback Michael Vick was tackled after a run, referee Ed Hochuli made a determination that Vick needed to have medical attention because he appeared to be disoriented. Vick was contacted in the helmet by a player’s knee in the tackle. Even though Vick claims there was dirt in his eye, the officials have to err on the side of player safety. If the officials and the team’s staff do not see this, then the ATC spotters may intervene to call a medical timeout.

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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