NFL Catch Rule Robs Steelers against New England
Yesterday football fans were treated to a game that easily could have been an AFC title showdown. The Patriots and Steelers battled for four quarters at Heinz Field and Pittsburgh was driving late in the game for the winning score. That is when this controversial play happened.
Instead of Pittsburgh taking the lead, the game was decided seconds later when Ben Roethlisberger faked spiking the ball and threw an interception off a deflected pass in the end zone. The bizarre ending gave New England a 27-24 win, and an inside track to home field advantage in the playoffs. If you look at the NFL Rulebook, this is how the completed pass is defined by the league.
ARTICLE 3. COMPLETED OR INTERCEPTED PASS
Item 1. Player Going to the Ground. 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 until after his initial contact with 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.
I believe that if a player catches the football and then attempts to score a touchdown, once the ball breaks the plane of the end zone, it should be six points. The score should be awarded regardless of whether the player loses control of the ball when he hits the ground after crossing the goal line. The NFL did the same thing to Dez Bryant years ago, so Cowboys fans know too well about the bogus catch rule. ESPN staff writer Bill Barnwell discussed three options the NFL can fix the rule.
The NFL has complicated their rules to try and offset the incredible athleticism that many of the game's top receivers possess. However, Larry Fitzgerald offered a simple solution to the problem a few years ago. "If a receiver catches the ball with two feet on the ground and turns to run with it, that should be a catch. If he gets the ball stripped, that should be a fumble." If you use this definition and add to it that once the ball breaks the plane of the end zone, it is a touchdown, James scores what could be the game-winner for Pittsburgh. Instead, the touchdown is reversed after replay and Roethlisberger tosses an ill-advised pass that gives the Patriots an improbable comeback win.