It seemed like the Pittsburgh Steelers won and tight end Jesse James would be the hero with a game-winning touchdown catch in the final minute against the New England Patriots. But if you’ve watched the NFL long enough, you know that a catch is often not a catch.
The NFL’s oft-criticized catch rule might determine where the AFC championship game is held. In the final seconds of a thrilling game Sunday, James caught a pass just short of the goal line, and as he was going down he crossed the goal line for what looked like a touchdown. In the CBS booth, Tony Romo and Jim Nantz couldn’t figure out why it was taking so long for replay review to confirm it.
They should have known. On each replay, you could see the ball move as James hit the ground. It touched the ground and moved. Everyone watching might believe that the rule is bogus, but once you saw the ball touch the ground and move, it was clear how it would end up: The play was overturned. Then two plays later, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tried to pull the fake spike trick and was intercepted in a shocking finish.
The Patriots won 27-24, but Steelers fans will argue they won the game on James’ catch. It’s tough to watch that play and think it’s not a catch, but that’s how the NFL rules it. No big deal, it might just determine who wins the Super Bowl this season, considering the implications on the AFC seeding. The Patriots now have the upper hand to get the No. 1 seed after the win.
NFL rules schoolmarm Mike Pereira weighed in on Twitter, and yes, he brought up the infamous Dez Bryant catch/non-catch.
Look, here is the rule. If you’re going to the ground you have to hold onto the ball when the ball hits the ground…Going to the ground trumps lunging/reaching to try and get extra yards or score a TD. You do that at your own risk. It’s incomplete…just ask Dez
— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) December 18, 2017
Here was the explanation from Tony Corrente, the referee in the Steelers-Patriots game:
— Michael Signora (@NFLfootballinfo) December 18, 2017
We have seen many “is it a catch?” controversies through the years. This will be one that lives on for a long, long time.
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