Sep 8, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) is unable to complete a pass while being guarded by Minnesota Vikings free safety Harrison Smith (22) during the first quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Plays By Calvin Johnson and Victor Cruz Call 'Process of the Catch" into Question

I used to think I knew what it meant to complete the process of the catch. Calvin Johnson was once again victimized by the so-called Calvin Johnson rule in the Detroit Lions win over the Minnesota Vikings.

I think it is silly to have to define what is and isn’t a catch, but my eyes have been trained by watching NFL football over the years and I had no doubt that Calvin’s apparent touchdown would be called incomplete upon further review. It’s stupid, but I’m over the week-to-week anger.

That was, until Victor Cruz was awarded a touchdown on a very similar play Sunday night. Here is video of the two plays back-to-back:

Former head of NFL officiating and Fox contributor Mike Pereira says both calls were correct.

Except it isn’t simple. Even after reviewing the NFL rule book, it is not apparent what Cruz did that Johnson did not do to complete the process of the catch before breaking the plane of the goal line. As of the time of this post, Pereira has not offered a more detailed explanation.

That leaves people like me to try to figure it out. I’ve got some bad news. I have no idea. To the rule book!

Article 3 Completed or Intercepted Pass. A player who makes a catch may advance the ball. A forward pass is complete (by the offense) or intercepted (by the defense) if a player, who is inbounds:
(a) secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground; and
(b) touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands; and
(c) maintains control of the ball long enough, after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, to enable him to perform any act
common to the game (i.e., maintaining control long enough to pitch it, pass it, advance with it, or avoid or ward off an
opponent, etc.).
Note 1: It is not necessary that he commit such an act, provided that he maintains control of the ball long enough to do so.
Note 2: If a player has control of the ball, a slight movement of the ball will not be considered a loss of possession. He must lose control of the ball in order to rule that there has been a loss of possession.
If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any part of his body other than his hands to the ground, or if there is any doubt that the acts were simultaneous, it is not a catch.
Item 1: Player 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 throughout the process of contacting 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.

Like I said before, I completely get why Calvin’s touchdown was overturned. To me, the issue at hand is the Cruz touchdown. Pereira says Cruz completed the process, which has to be true for the “going to the ground” clause to not apply. But for that to happen, Cruz would have had to satisfy (a), (b) and (c) above before falling towards the end zone. Did he? Watch the video again looking specifically for that to happen. It doesn’t.

The problem I see is that Cruz did not satisfy (b) before going to the ground. So how exactly was it that Cruz complete the process of the catch? After reviewing the film and the rule book, not even a detailed answer from Pereira will be satisfactory.


Pereira has gone back and watched the film and come to the same conclusion I did. The officials just got the Cruz catch plain wrong.

Tags: Calvin Johnson Detroit Lions New York Giants Victor Cruz

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