NFL Rule seems wrong

Dec. 31, 1969
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In the closing second of the Detroit Lions/Chicago Bears game yesterday, Calvin Johnson caught what was thought to be a game-winning touchdown pass. Instead, the play was reviewed and because he didn’t have the ball when he stood up, it was ruled an incomplete pass. He had both feet down, fell down once hit by an opposing player, had the ball as he rolled over and as he went to stand up it squirted from his hand.

The NFL rule states that the player must maintain possession all the way through the motion in order for it to be a complete pass. Never mind their rule about needing to only have two feet down. Or that he had possession of the ball for at least five seconds. Because he used the ball as leverage to stand up and it squirted free, the pass was ruled incomplete.

It turns out there are more than a few problems with the play. The Big Lead has an in-depth look at the rules exactly as written and finds a few problems.

My problem with the rule, and therefore the call, are two-fold. First, it seems contradictory to the “breaking the plane” rule and second, it’s a rule open to a lot of individual interpretation by the referee, something I thought the NFL was attempting to remove from the game.

Why must a player in the endzone conform to these very particular rules when a player heading towards the endzone must only break the invisible plane created by the white line.


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