It was all about the Detroit Lions (Yes, you read that correctly).
The Lions, notorious for being the NFL’s laughingstock year in and year out, hit a new low Sunday. Only this time, it wasn’t a bad call by a head coach or coordinator.
It was a widely disputed call by the officials.
Just to bring you up to speed in case you haven’t seen video of the potential game-winning play, Lions QB Shaun Hill (who was in the game because starter Matthew Stafford was hurt) threw a deep pass into the end zone intended for Calvin Johnson.
Johnson leaped over the smaller defender, caught the ball, had two feet down and had possession of the ball.
Or so it seemed.
A booth review resulted in the referee explaining to a raucous Soldier Field crowd that Johnson did not complete the “process” of catching the ball, therefore resulting in a devastating division loss on opening day for the Honolulu blue and white.
In essence, the call on the field was correct in terms of what is written in the NFL rulebook. What is a travesty is how the rule is applied so sternly, so much so that an exception to the rule should have been made.
If Johnson’s near-miraculous grab can not be considered a true catch, then what about other touchdowns we see on a regular basis?
If the rule is as states, wouldn’t a spike after a touchdown be considered premature and not “part of the process?" Or as many have noted, what about a running back who dives past the plain and loses the ball as soon as he hits the ground, yet it is still considered a legitimate score?
The rule—and the NFL as a whole—has so many semantics which make fans confused as to what is and what isn’t, and that is a recipe for disaster.
A catch used to be realized and interpreted as having possession with two feet inbounds, but now the league has made things more complicated for some apparent reason unknown to most fans. Perplexity is no way to run a league as popular as the NFL because as conflicts increase between the product and the fan, it makes the consumer much more skeptical.
For Detroit fans, this feeling is all too familiar. It has made people reminisce about the whole Jim Joyce-Armando Galarraga debacle which stole a perfect game away a couple months ago.
Detroit just can’t catch a break, but it’s the bigger picture which matters more. If a rule such as the one on Sunday impacts a meaningful game down the line—like a playoff game—the NFL’s credibility could be seriously challenged.