If we learned one thing over the weekend, it's that no one knows what a catch is. Even if you think you know what a catch is, you're probably wrong.
The NFL's catch rule is one of the most confusing rules in all of sports and during the Patriots-Steelers game. With just 28 seconds left to play in a game the Steelers were trailing 27-24, Ben Roethlisberger appeared to hit tight end Jesse James for a 10-yard touchdown that would have given the Steelers the lead.
Instead, the call was overturned, even though most people thought it was pretty clear that James had caught it. Reggie Bush, who played in the NFL for 11 years, thought it was a touchdown.
Terrible call by refs at the end of the Steelers game that was a catch— Reggie Bush (@ReggieBush) December 18, 2017
Former Colts coach Tony Dungy said that common sense pretty much says the Steelers scored.
“In flag football, high school football, college football, any place you play football other than the NFL, that’s a touchdown.”— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) December 18, 2017
– NBC's Tony Dungy on Steelers TE Jesse James’ TD catch being overturned
Even some Patriots fans thought the catch should have stood.
I never tweet in game. I love the Pats but this is absurd. Steelers won this game. That was a catch. The NFL is absurd.— Evan Cohen (@EvCoRadio) December 18, 2017
James also thought it was.
However, only one opinion matters and that's the opinion of the Alberto Riveron, the NFL's vice president of officiating. Since James was initially ruled to have scored a touchdown, the play was automatically reviewed by Riveron at the NFL's replay center in New York.
Since the play was so controversial, Riveron felt the need to release a video and explain why James' "catch" didn't count, and let's just say that Riveron might have just confused things even more. For one, Riveron opens up the video by mentioning that Roethlisberger "completes" a pass to James.
"As we can see, Roethlisberger completes a pass to James and James is going to the ground as he reached the goal line and that's the key here, he is going to the ground," Riveron said.
If you're trying to make a confusing rule less confusing, you probably shouldn't start by saying that Roethlisberger "completed" the pass, which implies that a catch was made, which means the Steelers scored. Riveron could have simply said that Big Ben threw a pass to James and then moved on.
Anyway, that's our cue to move on to the rest of Riveron's explanation.
"By rule, to complete the process of the catch, he must survive the ground. And by that, we mean he must maintain control of the football," Riveron said. "As we see [on the play], [James] does put the ball over the goal line extended. Once he gets there, he loses control of the football and then the ball hits the ground."
It doesn't matter that James ever had possession because he didn't maintain control all the way to the ground.
"We can see here the ball touches the ground, so therefore two things occur: He loses control of the football, and the ball touches the ground prior to him regaining control," Riveron said. "Therefore, the ruling on the field of a touchdown was changed to an incomplete pass."
This is a call that's going to be debated for the rest of the season, especially because it could end up costing the Steelers' home-field advantage in the playoffs. Although the controversial call did go against the Steelers, they actually still had a chance to win or tie the game in the final seconds, but Roethlisberger threw an interception in the end zone that sealed the Patriots win.
If that pass had fallen incomplete, the Steelers would have had a chance to tie the game with a 25-yard field goal attempt.
As for the catch-rule controversy, you can see and hear Riveron's entire explanation below.