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Golden Tate scores another TD seemingly unsupported by rules



Week 6: Bears at Lions (video)

Golden Tate caught a pass at the goal line and established two feet down. He lost control of the ball in the end zone, which was caught out of the air by the Bears. This was ruled on the field as an interception.

Blandino decided (although it was referee Walt Coleman’s decision to agree/disagree with his boss in replay) that Tate had established himself as a runner, because Tate “is taking his third step, the third step is almost on the ground” (as quoted in the video link above). Tate is not going to the ground, so this is different than plays that have involved payers going to the ground.

The criteria in this case is established in Rule 3-2-7-Item 1, with the text in italics being the 2015 revision (clarification??) to the rule:

To gain possession of a loose ball that has been caught, intercepted, or recovered, a player must have complete control of the ball and have both feet or any other part of his body, other than his hands, completely on the ground inbounds, and then maintain control of the ball until he has clearly become a runner. A player becomes a runner when he is capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent.

There is no counting of feet in the rule, and there is certainly question as to whether this constitutes a bulletproof case of conclusive evidence to overturn a call made on the field.

This will be explained over and over again this week with the needle saying firm on the call that was made in replay. However, it really does not inspire confidence in the centralized replay operation. And it is another disputed catch for Tate in the end zone that was supported by the league office.

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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