Tony Moeaki made an incredible catch in the back of the end zone for the Kansas City Chiefs in their 31-10 trouncing of the San Franciso 49ers. What is being considered now the catch of the year also begs the question was it actually a catch by the NFL standards?
The interesting thing about the play is that Mike Singletary did not throw out the red flag, challenging the call on the field and most likely if he even had, the call on the field would not have been changed. The catch by Moeaki was one handed and he brought it back into his body where he secured the football, again got both feet in bounds and fell on his back out of bounds while maintaining possession of the football.
As for the ball since he was able to bring it into his body it didn't even come close to touching the ground, but in week one there was a similar circumstance with Calvin Johnson. At first his catch was ruled a touchdown and then after a brief conference by the officials ruled incomplete. What was the reason for the call being changed to incomplete?
Here's what the process rule entails retrieved from the Pride of Detroit blog:
Article 3. Completed or Intercepted Pass. A player who makes a catch may advance the ball. A forward pass is complete (by the offense) or intercepted (by the defense) if a player, who is inbounds:
(a) secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground; and
(b) touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands.
. . .
If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any part of his body other than his hands to the ground, or if there is any doubt that the acts were simultaneous, it is not a catch.
Item 1: Player Going to the Ground. 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 after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or 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.
Item 3: End Zone Catches. If a player catches the ball while in the end zone, both feet must be completely on the ground before losing possession, or the pass is incomplete.
The blog also makes another great comparison between the Johnson play and a two point conversion by Lance Moore. The ruling on Moore's two point conversion on the field was an incomplete pass, but the Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints challenged the call and it was overturned making the two point conversion good.
Here's where to view Moore's two point conversion right here.
The reason why because even though Moore lost possession after contact he was able to reestablish the catch again before the ball came out of his hands. So, Moore completed the process of the catch and the two point conversion was good.
Shan Hill found Johnson, who made a leaping catch over Chicago Bears DB Zachary Bowman. As he was going down to the ground, he had both feet down in the end zone not even close to being out of bounds. He landed on his backside.
Since, Johnson was in the endzone even though Bowman did make contact with him he did not lose possession of the ball. The only time the ball was on the ground was Johnson attempting to get off the ground to celebrate what could have been the game winning touchdown reception.
There was still some time for the Bears to drive down the field.
As the Pride of Detroit blog points out there are important questions that the NFL needs to answer in regards to what constitute a catch. For example the rule about making a catch and regaining possession before the ball hits the ground.
Here's the exact question from the blog. "If Johnson goes up and makes a catch and then goes to the ground, lays there with the ball in his hands for 10 minutes and then drops it as he's getting up, is that a catch or not? According to the rule, Johnson 'must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground.' Because nothing is specified about just how long he must maintain control, an official could theoretically rule the pass incomplete despite Johnson having the ball in his hands for 10 minutes. Then again, because the length of this process is not specified, an official could also rule that Johnson made the catch, as it is unreasonable to call it incomplete after he was on the ground with the ball for 10 minutes."
Basically what Sean Yuille who wrote the blog post is saying that if there's no specific amount of time that a player must have possession of the ball then how could Johnson's catch be considered incomplete if he's laying on the ground for a long period of time?
Moeaki made an incredible catch by all definitions of the rule it was because he maintained possession even while out of bounds, Moore made his catch because he was contacted and clearly regained possession after he lost control of the ball, and Johnson's is the only catch that was ruled incomplete even though he never lost possession of the ball.
By rule all three should have been catches because by the NFL rule on catches, Johnson made the catch.