By Steve Rogers
I’ve observed perhaps 3,000 football games from youth games to high school state championships to NFL playoff games.
And in 42 years of watching, I’ve never seen a legitimate catch ruled an incomplete pass until Sunday when Dallas Cowboy receiver Dez Bryant made a spectacular grab high above Green Bay’s Sam Shields late in the fourth quarter.
Bryant had total control of the pigskin as he placed both feet on the ground, moved the football to his left hand to reach for the goal line and landed at the 1-yard line.
The football was always in Bryant’s control, even as he switched hands and reached out. At the high school or college level, it was a sure catch.
However upon touching the ground about two feet from the goal line, the pigskin popped out of his left and landed on Bryant’s chest where the Cowboys star receiver grabbed the ball with both arms.
Even if it were ruled a fumble, the Cowboys would have the ball on the Green Bay 1-yard line after this spectacular fourth-down pass of 31 yards, right.
The field officials called it a catch and marked it on the one. But not at Lambeau Field in front of 79,000 roaring fans and national audience, friends.
The NFL rule book’s interpretation and the designated replay official, simply put, then deposited a large pile of manure directly on the Dallas Cowboys by ruling the catch an incompletion.
It was essentially the slap in the face heard around the world — aimed at silencing the Cowboys, America’s former team that was so close to reaching the NFC Championship Game for the first time in 19 years.
Cowboys were in total shock. Certainly the Cowboys’ receiver had possession of the football and placed two feet in-bounds. Hell, isn’t that the definition of a catch in any football league.
Apparently not in Green Bay on this tragic day.
STUPID NFL RULE 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1 states:
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 in 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.”
Let me be clear on this: I am not a Dallas Cowboys fan, nor a Green Bay Packers hater. The NFL and the outcome of this playoff game do not affect me.
Yet, at my core, I am very upset over what is injustice in a game played by very big, strong men for millions of dollars each week. The rule — if followed to the letter — is either poorly written or authored by a fool who does not understand the basics of football.
Remember the classic rule: The ground cannot cause a fumble.
Where I come from (The Big 10), the ground further cannot cause an incompletion if the receiver has shown he controlled ball possession.
And Dez Bryant did that flawlessly, plus he went the extra mile and tried to cross the goal line in a heroic effort.
Apparently the NFL rule requires a weaker approach. Football was not made for wimps however.
Bryant’s effort earn my vote for NFL Player of the Week, which makes the NFL rule writers — all of them flawed humans — the NFL Goats of the Week.
By Steve Rogers