Judgements 15: That does it! Time to overhaul the Catch Rule


Ben Roethlisberger photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers

If New England’s last-minute defeat of Pittsburgh proved anything, it’s this: Now, more than ever, the NFL must get rid of the Catch Rule.

Look, I know what some of you are thinking: The Steelers got jobbed by officials. But you’re wrong. The Steelers weren’t victimized by a bad call. They were victimized by a bad rule.

And, yes, there is a difference.

Once upon a time, a catch was a catch was a catch, and players — not officials — decided games. But now there’s so much deciphering … delineating … defining … decoding … you name it … that nobody … and I mean nobody … knows what a catch is anymore.

Hey, it took CBS analyst Tony Romo five replays before he noticed that the ball moved and that officials may overrule an apparent TD. So what’s does that tell you? It’s a bad rule, that’s what.

“Look, here is the rule,” tweeted Mike Pereira, the league’s former head of officiating and now the rules analyst for Fox Sports. “If you’re going to the ground, you have to hold on to 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.”

That’s Dez Bryant he’s talking about, and he had an apparent catch in the last minute of a 2014 playoff game vs. Green Bay nullified because he didn’t, as the rule puts it, “complete the process” when he fell to the ground. So the apparent reception was ruled incomplete, and the Cowboys lost the game.

Dez didn’t catch it … not by the NFL’s definition … but we all know better. We all know what happened in Pittsburgh Sunday, too. Steelers’ tight end Jesse James made the game-winning catch … except not by the NFL’s definition.

So change the rule. It stinks, nobody understands it and the undeserving are getting penalized. It took years for the NFL to concede that the Tuck Rule needed to be changed for those very reasons, but it did what it should and redefined a rule that made no sense.

So do it again.

FIRST-AND-20

  1. Maybe New England should have Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski play defense.
  2. The Steelers’ Eli Rogers already is predicting Pittsburgh beats the Patriots in the playoffs, and you can see why: The Steelers converted 10 of 16 third downs without their best offensive weapon, Antonio Brown, and demonstrated they can hang with New England. But here’s why he’s wrong: Because Sunday’s loss virtually guarantees if these two meet again it will be in Foxboro … where the Steelers have never beaten Tom Brady.
  3. How come nobody is talking about Todd Gurley for league MVP? Guaranteed, they will now.
  4. But they won’t with Russell Wilson. That train just left the station, and too bad. Wilson is a one-man offense.
  5. The good news for Eagles’ fans: Your team just clinched a first-round playoff bye, and Nick Foles threw four touchdown passes in his first start of the year. The bad news: If your defense is as bad as it looked vs. the Giants, your team is DOA. Reason: That was Eli Manning and the last-place Giants that shredded it for 504 yards and six drives of 65 or more yards and four of 75.
  6. The AFC team I wouldn’t want to face in the playoffs? Baltimore. The Ravens have a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, an offense that has a pulse again and a defense that leads the league in takeaways.
  7. Really good to see Cincinnati rally around their outgoing coach. What a disgrace.
  8. If you live in Ohio, this is why it’s good to be a Buckeyes’ fan: Since the beginning of November, the Bengals and Browns are a combined 2-13 and have been outscored 132 points.
  9. Best team in the NFC West: Washington. The Redskins are 4-0 vs. the division; 2-8 vs. everyone else.
  10. Maybe I should’ve included Houston rookie Desean Watson in that league MVP poll. The Texans were 3-3 with him. They’re 1-7 without.
  11. The rest of the NFC playoff field should congratulate the Carolina Panthers. They just guaranteed nobody has to worry about Aaron Rodgers in January.
  12. Time to replay that Derek Carr “it’s all my fault” sound bite. You can’t blame the guy for trying to make a play at the goal line, but not that play. What an appropriate ending to a disappointing season. Just lose, baby.
  13. About time the NFL woke up to the Carolina investigation of owner Jerry Richardson. If the league can devote months and millions to the investigation of the Ideal Gas Law it can … and should … get involved here … and not stop until we hear from Ted Wells.
  14. Aaron Rodgers said he wasn’t returning to save the season, and he didn’t save it. So the Packers should consider shutting him down for the year.
  15. Very simple: If the NFL suspends JuJu Smith-Schuster for his hit on Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict, it must suspend Carolina’s Thomas Davis for hammering Green Bay’s Davante Adams into next week.
  16. Bah-humbug, no playoff game at the StubHub Center. I really wanted to see 26,000 jam the joint.
  17. I want to see Buffalo in the playoffs, too, but it’s not going to happen. Reason: The Bills’ next opponent. It’s the Patriots … in New England, no less … and Tom Brady’s 27-3 against them.
  18. So now the book is complete on the Zeke Elliott suspension. The Cowboys were 3-3, averaging 18.3 points per (29.3 in their last three, all wins) and never beating an opponent with a winning record. Nevertheless … they’re still alive for the playoffs, with games left vs. Seattle and Philadelphia.
  19. If Blake Bortles is, as Houston’s Jadeveon Clowney charged, “trash,” what does that make the poor saps Bortles just victimized for three touchdowns and a career-best 143.8 rating?
  20. Coach of the Year could be a photo finish between Sean McVay and Doug Marrone, with the smart money on McVay.

WINNERS

CHIEFS. Suddenly, they look like someone nobody wants to play in January … or, like the Chiefs of the first six weeks.

RAMS. They will reach the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Better yet, in one season they’ve shifted the balance of power in the NFC West and become a bonafide Super Bowl threat.

BUFFALO RB LESEAN MCCOY. He’s the 30th player in NFL history to rush for 10,000 career yards, but only four guys who got there have fewer carries: Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson, Adrian Peterson and Barry Sanders. All are Hall of Famers.

MINNESOTA QB TEDDY BRIDGEWATER. So he throws an interception on his first throw of the year. Big deal. The guy played for the first time since August, 2016, and that’s a huge step forward.

CAROLINA DE JULIUS PEPPERS.  He becomes just the third 37-year-old in NFL history to produce a 10-sack season. The others? Bruce Smith and Kevin Greene, both Hall of Famers.

N.Y. GIANTS’ QB ELI MANNING. Now that’s more like it. Anyone looking for a veteran quarterback to push you over the top, take note. Eli should be available in 2018.

LOSERS

GREEN BAY PACKERS. Turn out the lights. The party’s over.

PITTSBURGH. It may have lost more than a home-field advantage to New England. It lost MVP candidate Antonio Brown for the rest of the regular season, too.

OAKLAND. Say goodnight. Season’s over.

CHARGERS’ QB PHILIP RIVERS. No playoffs, no MVP consideration. Lost weekend.

GREEN BAY QB AARON RODGERS. He didn’t just lose. He suffered his first three-interception game since 2009.

NEW ORLEANS WR MICHAEL THOMAS. So he scored and became the first player to produce 90 catches in each of his first two seasons. Replays cost him two more touchdowns.

SUNDAY’S REPORT CARD

A

CAROLINA QB CAM NEWTON. He throws for four TDs, throws for 242 yards, runs for another 58 and bests Aaron Rodgers. Over his last five starts he has 11 touchdown passes and one interception.

NEW ENGLAND TE ROB GRONKOWSKI. He made the big plays in the biggest moments, with 69 of his game-high 168 yards on the Patriots’ game-winning drive.

MINNESOTA RB JERRICK MCKINNON. He produced the first 100-yard receiving game for a Vikings’ running back since 2004.

BUFFALO QB TYROD TAYLOR. Watching him dissect the Dolphins makes you wonder why he and the Bills can’t work out a long-term relationship.

SAN FRANCISCO QB JIMMY GAROPPOLO. That makes him 5-0 as a starter, with three straight come-from-behind victories. Looks as if San Francisco solved its quarterback problem.

RAMS’ RETURNER PHAROH COOPER. He puts up 180 yards in kick and punt returns as the balance of power in the NFC West shifts from Seattle to La La Land.

SAN FRANCISCO PK ROBBIE GOULD. Think the Bears wish they had him back? The guy is money, nailing another game-winning field goal as time expired — his sixth field goal of the game. He now has a career-high 36 for the season.

B

BALTIMORE QB JOE FLACCO. The past three games he’s thrown for season highs in yardage. More importantly, he’s thrown only one interception the past month.

C

TENNESSEE QB MARCUS MARIOTA. He played well enough to win … but that’s the problem. He didn’t win. Too many field goals and not enough touchdowns.

DALLAS QB DAK PRESCOTT. No, it wasn’t one of his best games. But he made the big throw at the end to clinch the Cowboys’ third straight victory.

D

NEW ENGLAND CB STEPHON GILMORE. The Patriots paid him top-dollar to make stops in game like that. So what happened? He looked lost. So did almost everyone on the New England defense.

NFL TECHNOLOGY. An index card just completed an Oakland nightmare. You’d think a multi-billion operation could find something better than an index card to determine first downs. Then again, you’d think that same operation would devise a logical and understandable rule to take the guessing out of pass receptions.

E

CINCINNATI QB ANDY DALTON. He threw two interceptions. He produced zero scores. He had a season-worst 27.3 passer rating. And he was benched. Look for the Bengals to give AJ McCarron a look the last two weeks. Hey, why not?

HOUSTON QB T.J. YATES. The poor guy had no chance.

SEATTLE QB RUSSELL WILSON. He had no chance, either. He wasn’t just outclassed; he was overwhelmed, sacked a season-high seven times.

PITTSBURGH SAFETY SEAN DAVIS. How do you miss that interception?

F

MIAMI QB JAY CUTLER. One week after he outplays Tom Brady, he turns into Jay Cutler again. That’s the 12th time in his career he’s thrown three interceptions, and he’s 0-12 in those games.

GIANTS’ SPECIAL TEAMS. Missed an extra point. Missed a field goal. Had a punt blocked. Horrible.

SUNDAY’S HALL OF FAMER

JACKSONVILLE QB BLAKE BORTLES. The Jags are in the playoffs for the first time in 10 years, and this just in: It’s not all because of their defense. You can’t ignore what this guy has done. Not only did he shred the Texans Sunday, but look what’s happened the past three games: He’s thrown for seven touchdowns, had no interceptions and put up ratings of, in order, 119.8, 123.7 and 143.8. Now the question: How far do you trust him to take the Jags in the playoffs? Someone? Anyone?

SUNDAY’S HALL OF SHAMER

EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE WITH SEATTLE. It’s one thing to lose. And it’s one thing to lose at home. But to lose by 35 … in Seattle? And in a game that could determine the NFC West? Awful. Worse, for the second straight week two players were ejected after the outcome was decided. Sleepless in Seattle? It’s more like Shameless in Seattle. With the Seahawks a probable wildcard entry, make them an early exit. No games at home plus no Legion of Boom = no playoff wins.

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1 Comment

  1. Rasputin
    December 18, 2017
    Reply

    Except Dez did catch it while upright and lunged for the endzone. He wasn’t going to the ground when he caught it. He made multiple football moves, including intentionally switching the ball from one hand to another for tactical reasons. So Mike Pereira and the NY office are still wrong.

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