Posted by Josh Katzowitz
If you want to blame the officials for the Calvin Johnson TD catch not counting late in the Bears-Lions game, that’s OK. If you want to curse and say, “What the hell was the referee doing under that hood? Why didn’t he overturn an incomplete call on what was very obviously a TD call?” that’s all right, too.
On the surface, the sequence of events that secured Chicago’s 19-14 win against Detroit seems drastically unfair. And it is unfair. It’s a silly, stupid rule. But blame the rule. Don’t blame the officials.
Here’s how it set up: QB Shaun Hill threw a pretty pass to Calvin Johnson in the corner of the end zone with less than a minute to play. Johnson caught the ball over Bears DB Zackary Bowman and landed his feet and his body with the ball secured in his hands. Then he put the ball on the ground.
Whether he was using the ball to help himself up or whether he just lost control for a second (he had only one hand on the ball at that point), that’s where the controversy comes in. Was it a catch? Absolutely. Should it have been a TD? For sure. Is it spelled out that way in the rule book? No.
Because he was still “in the process” of catching the TD pass, what was, at first, ruled a TD was quickly overruled as an incomplete pass. The official’s review confirmed the second ruling on the field.
Here’s what the rule states (hat tip to Pro Football Talk ): "If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete."
Yes, the rule is unfair, and there’s no doubt that it’ll be under intense scrutiny. But it wasn’t the referee’s fault. He was just correctly enacting what is a stupid rule. A stupid, stupid rule.
Your eyes – and mine – told you that Johnson caught a TD pass. It should have been.
UPDATE (6:13 p.m.): Reaction from Johnson: "I thought it was a catch, I figured if I got two feet and a knee down, it was a catch. I thought we finally won in Chicago. It is what it is, and now it’s over."
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