Get Ready For More Changes to Catch Rule

Nothing ruins a game more than when you see your football team make an unbelievable play only to have the referees waive it off and say it doesn't count. Or to not know if you should celebrate because you're waiting for the inevitable review.

It's one thing to lose a game because you didn't do your best or because the other team outperformed you. But losing because the officials denied you of a perfectly good play is unacceptable.

The Catch Rule, the NFL's detailed requirements for completing a catch has been the subject of controversy, particularly in recent years. It has been on the books since 1938, but has been tweaked, modified, and changed over the years so much that it makes something as simple as catching a ball much more complicated to define and officiate.

The NFL says more changes are coming to the Catch Rule. But this time it will mean more catches count as catches.

Games Ruined By the Rule

Take a look at former Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson as he made an amazing grab to score a touchdown in 2010. Guess what? The touchdown didn't count. Officials argued that he did not maintain control of the ball as he got up from the catch. The touchdown rejected, and the Lions lost the game.

In January 2015, the Dallas Cowboys played the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs. The winner would move on to the NFC Championship, and the loser would look at one single play for years to come. On 4th down from the 30-yard line with just minutes left in the game, Tony Romo threw it deep to Dez Bryant.

Dez made an outstanding catch and tried to score in the process. According to officials, this attempt was loss of control. Incomplete. Instead of being on the Packers' 1-yard line, the Cowboys lost the ball, the game, and any hopes of a Super Bowl.

Even just last season, in an important game against the New England Patriots, the Pittsburgh Steelers fell victim to the Catch Rule. Tight end Jesse James caught a pass to make it 1st-and-goal with 28 seconds left in the game. He, too, was reaching the ball over the goal line. The ball appeared to move when he was doing this, so the officials ruled it an incomplete pass. New England's win gave them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Outcries Force Change

The outcries from players and fans have persuaded the NFL's competition committee to modify the Catch Rule. The main focuses will be eliminating the "going to the ground" distinctions which have resulted in so many turnovers, as well as setting a higher standard for overturning calls made on the field after reviewing instant replays.

Instant replays would have to show "indisputable visual evidence," and catches would not be ruled incomplete for slight movements of the ball. In other words, all of the catches mentioned above — as well as many others ruled incomplete — would have counted.

The receiver will have to control the ball and establish himself in bounds. The rules will apply equally to receivers who remain standing and those who fall while catching the ball. The goal is to come up with consistent factors which determine a good catch or at least one that counts as a reception.

These ideas will be presented at the annual league meeting in Orlando Florida March 25-28. The proposals are subject to vote. Approval requires the support of 24 out of the 32 team owners.

Will changes to the Catch Rule result in better officiation or more controversy? Sometimes we give the benefit of the doubt to the team we support and not so much to the team we are against. But we should all agree that a catch is a catch, regardless of what team we support. Hopefully, the NFL and its officials can deliver that result next season with the new changes.

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