Controversy reigned as the New England Patriots defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24 on Sunday night.
At issue was an apparent catch in the end zone by Jesse James with 28 seconds remaining. The referees initially ruled James had caught the ball but overturned the decision upon further review. Two plays later, Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception that sealed the win for New England.
James' non-catch was similar to Dez Bryant's overturned 31-yard catch in the 2015 NFC Divisional Round against the Green Bay Packers. James maintained possession of the ball until he fell to the ground, at which point the ball came loose.
"I'm sick about it," said James after the game, via ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. "I'll be thinking about it all night."
CBS Sports shared a replay of the sequence:
Fox Sports officiating expert Mike Pereira defended the final decision, saying the referee's interpreted the rule correctly:
David Helman of the Dallas Cowboys' official website questioned whether James' non-catch was actually a parallel to Bryant's:
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid was among those puzzled by what is and isn't a catch in the NFL:
NFL Network's Rich Eisen argued the NFL needs to address the rule, which would help avoid situations like what unfolded in Heinz Field:
Rich Eisen @richeisen
When a rule leaves fans confused — because merely breaking plane is fine for a runner holding onto the ball — and/or dissatisfied and disillusioned, it’s time to change the rule. The ball moved after he broke the plane. And he wouldn’t have lunged had points not been at stake. https://t.co/EMe2kr3Lof
Likely adding more anger for those in Pittsburgh, Sunday's loss carried significant playoff ramifications in the AFC. FanSided's Matt Verderame highlighted how the playoff picture would've looked a lot different had the Patriots lost:
Here's how others reacted to the call:
In the aftermath of the controversy created during the 2015 playoffs, the NFL attempted to rewrite the rules for what constitutes a catch. At the time, the wording was confusing and didn't really resolve the issue, and Sunday drove that point home even further.
Given the outcry immediately after the Patriots' victory, it seems highly likely the league will again look at the rulebook to clear up the confusion surrounding catches.