Wait a minute… The Replacement Refs Got it Right (no really)

When I blogged about this story earlier, I didn’t even bother discuss the play or the call… I figured it was self-evident to a tree. And that’s pretty much how every else saw it too. But then the NFL released a statement yesterday saying that it really was a catch. Everyone dismissed it and I went to read it for the same reason, I was planning a post highlighting their completely inhumane torturing of logic.

But a funny thing happened on the way to mock the NFL. They made a point.

First we need to define a catch: (And I’ll emphasis the parts that both help and hurt their argument)

A player (or players) jumping in the air has not legally gained possession of the ball until he satisfies the elements of a catch listed here.

Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3 of the NFL Rule Book defines a catch:

A forward pass is complete (by the offense) or intercepted (by the defense) if a player, who is inbounds:

(a) secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground; and

(b) touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands; and

(c) maintains control of the ball long enough, after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, to enable him to perform any act common to the game (i.e., maintaining control long enough to pitch it, pass it, advance with it, or avoid or ward off an opponent, etc.).

When a player (or players) is going to the ground in the attempt to catch a pass, Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1 states:

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 throughout the process of contacting 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.

Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 5 states:

Simultaneous Catch. If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control. If the ball is muffed after simultaneous touching by two such players, all the players of the passing team become eligible to catch the loose ball.

After reading the above, I decided to give the video the full Zapruder. When I first viewed the video I saw (like everyone else) that M.D. Jennings, “came down with it.”  Only problem was, when I looked at it anew, Golden Tate came down with it *first.* And that’s important. The key bit of video actually happened BEFORE the part you probably thought was the definitive part.

I’m going to post two screen caps in question then the video. Then return to the discussion of the play:

Click that image. This screen shot is from the 0:48 mark on the video. You can see in this pic that beyond any doubt at all, Tate has two feet on the ground and Jennings did not. This is where “the catch’ happened.  Well if you assume he had possession… hold that thought.

The key to the NFL’s explanation is that the catch is not made until the receiver lands.  Here’s a reverse angle look from 1:06 in the video:

Now here is the crux of the argument. Tate had possession here, the game is over. That’s the important part of the NFL’s argument… The play ended here, before Jennings even landed. Nothing after that fact mattered.

Now did he have control? After watching the video like 10 times IF YOU STOP LOOKING AFTER TATE’S FEET HIT THE GROUND he does. Remember, after Tate catches the ball the play is over. He’s in the end zone so he does not have to be tackled. At the beginning of the jump, he did not have possession, but he reaches in again and pretty clearly wraps his arms around the ball (and the defender’s arms) as his feet hit the ground. AFTER they both hit the ground and the play is over M.D. Jennings wrestles it away. It was not even a simultaneous catch, Jennings was still in the air.

Watch the video and see if you don’t have a different perspective if you ignore everything after Tate’s feet hit the ground. (at 1:06)

Now I know what a lot of you are thinking. He never had control and/or he was not able to “ward off an opponent.” But the fact they wrestled over the ball disproves this point. He had possession for several second AFTER the play was over. Yes, he also had possession of M.D. Jennings arms. Jennings, might have had it closer to his chest but that is irrelevant to the ruling. If you still doubt Tate had his arms around the ball, this screen cap will end the discussion.

He still had his arms around the ball even after he hit the ground. (again well after the play is over) The NFL can credibly make the call Tate had possession. The video backs them up.

And watching the video, (and this is key) there is absolutely no way they had enough evidence to overturn the call on the field. (Again ignore everything after Tate’s feet his because the catch was made then.)

If you read the rules, this was a good call.

And yes I know about the non-call the NFL copped to. That is what it is. Non-calls happen on nearly every play. As a general rule, everyone (fans, players, coaches) likes it that way. I’m only discussing the primary call.

Also I updated the post with a third screen grab.

And Lastly since it will probably come up, I’m a Green Bay fan.. but dude the video tells the tale.

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