A sports columnist concedes, the Packers beat the Cowboys, fair and square. "Too many lesser Packers made key plays in this one." We refer to a football team for a reason. The game, however, featured a late coach's challenge involving "completing the process of the catch." That phrase, itself, suggests inordinate complexity, and perhaps the way to demonstrate the folly of a rule is to comply with it. Incomplete pass, Packers take over on downs, the four-minute stall works as intended.
Referee Gene Steratore explained after the game why the officials overturned the catch.That is the rule, and its application contributed to the Bears securing home field for the 2010 playoffs. A Detroit Lions fan attempted to make sense of the rule, but couldn't.
“Although [Bryant] is possessing the football, he must maintain possession throughout the entire process of the catch,” Steratore said. “In our judgment, he maintained possession but continued to fall and never had another act common to the game. At the time he lands, the ball hits the ground, it comes loose, which would make that incomplete.”
Steratore said that Bryant’s elbow hitting the ground before the ball didn’t matter. He said elbows and knees are “irrelevant” when a receiver is “still going through the process of the catch … he must complete the entire process with the football.”
If the call was correct then the rule is bad. Anyone can see this. This is a direct product of the league trying to legislate out judgment. If game officials had the leeway to use reasonable judgment in rules interpretation then this would have been a catch. What makes this particularly outrageous though, is that in no way has subjectivity been legislated out of the game. On virtually every play one official or another is using judgment and experience to make determinations of penalties, ball placements, completions, and turnovers. Rules that restrict the flexibility for game officials to use their professional judgment when it absolutely matters the most are absurd.There's a separate problem in the playoffs, namely the creation of new panels of officials who performed well individually whilst working with others, and the delays because of post-play conferences bring to mind the posturing and straining at gnats of a faculty meeting. A New York Times columnist characterized the rule as the worst rule.
N.F.L. Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1: 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 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.Green Bay Packer publicist Vic Ketchman defends the rule.
The N.F.L.’s worst rule struck again Sunday, and this time it cost the Detroit Lions a near-certain victory.
You have to draw the line somewhere, and the rule makes the line most distinct. If you want it to be a catch, then catch it and eat it. That’ll work. Reaching the ball out for the goal line has become a dangerous mania. There’s a point at which ball security is more important than breaking the plane. This was one of those times. As soon as I saw the replay, I knew the call would be reversed.In the same column, however, he quips, "Nobody knows" what a catch is.
And so, on to Seattle.