Down 28-24 late in the fourth quarter, the Falcons were in a tough third-down situation. Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Julio Jones had made all but one of the team's catches to that point, so it was somewhat surprising when QB Matt Ryan floated a pass to a wide-open Douglas.
As Douglas ran alone along the right sideline, he stumbled in an attempt to haul in the seemingly easy reception.
Douglas got both hands on the ball, but it moved quite a bit as he fell to the ground. While the ball definitely hit the turf, the ruling was that Douglas maintained possession the entire time.
49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh made his feelings clear on the ruling.
Was this call correct? Twitter reaction varied greatly on the subject:
B/R Lead Writer Ty Schalter summed up the divide nicely.
Twitter is 50/50 on whether or not that was such a no-brainer catch it wasn't worth reviewing, or the most egregious blown call of all time.— Ty Schalter (@tyschalter) January 20, 2013
ESPN's Bob Wischusen lamented Douglas' ability to stay upright:
Doesn't change the fact that for some reason as that ball was thrown Douglas turned into Timmy Lupus from the Bad News Bears— Bob Wischusen (@espnbob) January 20, 2013
Former referee Mike Pereira was clear in his affirmation of the catch.
Clearly grasp and control and not a fumble. Referee correctly ruled.— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) January 20, 2013
Don Banks cited a bit of history in his assessment of the play.
Bert Emanuel play, 1999 NFC title game. Harry Douglas play, 2012 NFC title game. One ruled non-catch, one ruled catch. Rule change inspired.— Don Banks (@DonBanks) January 20, 2013
Regardless of everyone's personal opinion, the ruling ended up meaning little as Atlanta was unable to score on the possession.
San Francisco went on to win the game, 28-24.