The Google search definition of a catch is, “intercept and hold (something that has been thrown, propelled or dropped).”
The NFL rules say that a player going to the ground while attempting to make a catch must have control of the ball throughout the process before hitting the ground.
That means if you are going to the ground in the act of catching the ball, and you hit the ground and the ball comes out, it is incomplete. Or if the ball hits the ground and moves, whether or not it fully comes out, it is incomplete.
Another rule of a catch is to have both feet in bounds and maintain control of the ball. The ground rule comes in to play if the player is going to the ground. So if you can catch it with both feet in, get hit and fall out of bounds and drop the ball as you hit the ground, it is ruled incomplete. Hang on to the ball, complete.
NBC color commentator Cris Collinsworth’s definition of a catch: nothing is a catch anymore.
There were two plays that Collinsworth was baffled by and kept coming back to throughout the game.
The first play was the Corey Clement touchdown catch in the back of the end zone.
Clement did have two feet in and on the third step, the front of his foot did step out. The ruling was called a touchdown and the play went under review.
The reply did show Clement catch the ball with a little bit of a juggle, but he did have control, or at least enough control before his foot stepped out.
To me, it was a catch and the play did stand, as there was not enough video evidence to overturn the call. See, I said stand, not confirmed.
The second play, and the one that has everyone buzzing, is the Zach Ertz touchdown. It is a play that was quickly connected to a pair of infamous plays from recent history.
Collinsworth, Skip Bayless, Le’Veon Bell and Ryan Shazier all commented how the catch was similar to Dez Bryant’s and Jesse James’ catches that were ruled incomplete.
Bell and Shazier, both teammates with James for the Steelers, both came out on Twitter with their thoughts.
Bell, “it’s crazy cuz that’s the same thing Jesse did and it got called incomplete … lol I guess IDK what a catch is anymore.”
Shazier, “is that a catch?? Then what was Jesse @JJames18_ Catch ???”
The calls were right by the NFL definition. The Dez Bryant play: He went up and as he was coming down, you can see the ball in his arms hit the ground, and the ball popped out. He has to complete the catch through the ground. Now if he was able to gain balance for a little longer and dove, that would be a catch because he made would have been established as a runner.
The Jesse James play: If you watch the play, Ben Roethlisberger throws the ball behind James and he reaches back, and the momentum has him fall to the ground as he is catching the ball, thus never making him a runner. The ball did hit the ground and move; therefore, it was incomplete. Now if the ball hit the ground and didn’t move, or if the ball never touched the ground and did move but James was able to maintain control, it would have been ruled a catch and a touchdown. Similar to Bryant’s situation.
The Zach Ertz play: Ertz caught the ball and became the runner. You can see him turn upfield with control of the ball and dive for the end zone. If you watch the play, he takes three steps, four if you count his toe dragging as he dove over the Patriots defender. He crossed the goal line for the touchdown. Once he broke the goal line, it was a touchdown. He clearly landed in the end zone, so before the ball came out, and the ground cannot cause a fumble. Even if he started to lose control before he crossed the line, which it didn’t look like he did, he grabbed the ball. No matter how you look at it, Ertz caught it and it was a touchdown. Completely different from the Jesse James play.
There is no debate on if Ertz made the catch. Clement’s was more debatable, but to me, it was called correctly as well. Ertz’ play and James’ play were two completely different plays. Ertz caught it and became a runner and dove over the line. James caught it and fell to the ground, never having his feet planted during the catch and fell in the end zone and lost control.
The NFL needs to take a look at the catch rule and clarify it. A novel idea may be to try to insert some common sense. If you use common sense you can determine what a catch is. Mainly look at if he became a runner and if he held on through contact, either with a player or ground through the act of catching the ball. Maybe just get a group of 50 fans together and watch the video reviews quickly and have them vote to uphold the call or overturn it.