‘Surviving the ground’ — How the NFL confused the Hunter Henry non-catch call

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At the 2018 NFL league meetings, NFL owners and leaders decided to make the rules about what is and is not a catch simpler and less subjective. So they voted to make the part of the rule that defines a catch that has to do with "surviving the ground."
What does that mean? That means since 2018, any receiver who caught the ball and maintained control of the ground while having two feet or some other body part in the bounds and making a football move was in possession of the ball. The ball no longer had to be in player possession after the ball touched the ground to be a catch.
In a press conference following the unanimous vote, then-NFL senior vice president Al Riveron brought up several plays that would be considered complete under the new guidelines. These included legendary non-catches from Calvin Johnson and Dez "I catch it!" Bryant.
So why was Hunter Henry's touchdown catch in the New England Patriots' 33-26 Thanksgiving Night loss to the Minnesota Vikings counted as a non-catch with 6-50 left after Alex Kemp's crew checked it? This was a touchdown decision that was reversed, so you'd think there would be absolute proof that it wasn't a touchdown.
The tape does not provide this evidence.
Anyway, it looked like Henry was controlling the ball with his hand on the ground.
"I don't know," Henry said after the game. “They shouted what they shouted. I think I got it but they called and we have to live with it.
"They said it hit the ground but my hand was underneath it. My hand was underneath even after it hit the ground. But they called. That's it."
Kemp wasn't made available to the media after the game via ESPN's pool reporter Mike Reiss, but incumbent Walt Anderson's NFL vice president was, and here's what he said.
Question: What did you watch to determine that Hunter Henry from New England wasn't in control?
Anderson: "He went down, the ball eventually hit the ground and then he lost control of the ball in his hands."
Question: Can you explain why he was not granted possession before the ball hit the ground?
Anderson: "Because if he goes down, he has to keep control of the ball when it hits the ground. The common term is "survive the ground" - a lot of people refer to that. So when he goes down he has the elements of two feet and control, but because he goes down he needs to maintain control of the ball when it goes down.
Question: He has two hands on it. How much of a role does it play in that decision that he had two hands on the ball?
Anderson: "Well, if he controlled the ball with two hands, even if the ball hits the ground, if you don't lose control of the ball after it hits the ground, that would still be a catch. ”
Question: Is there anything else that I didn't ask that is important to this discussion?
Anderson: "No, we've pretty much covered all the elements of the catch required to make it complete."
Unfortunately, the question of changing the catch rule was not asked. Not that it changed the outcome of the game, but maybe Anderson would have taken the whole surviving the ground thing back since it's not part of the NFL rulebook since the 2017 season.
If the VP of Officiating doesn't understand this rule change, what hope do we have that on-field officials will properly rule the call?
NBC Sports rules analyst and former NFL umpire Terry McAulay reached out to me with this clarification: "The rule change allowed a player who controls two feet or another body part and brings them down and then completes the catch by he performs an action customary for the game . That didn't happen, so he had to keep control when the ball hit the ground. He did not."
Well, that's another story. You can argue about whether or not Henry stayed in control (I still think he did), but we're not talking about "surviving the bottom" here. Anderson confused the issue when he brought it up.
For those interested, here is the full rule.
A player making a catch may advance the ball. A forward pass is completed or intercepted (by defense) in the field, on the touchline, or in the end zone when a player who is inbounds:
a. secures control of the ball in his hands or arms before the ball hits the ground; and
b. touching the ground with both feet or with any part of the body other than hands; and
c. after (a) and (b) have been met, performs an action customary in the game (e.g., tucks the ball, extends it forward, takes an extra step, turns up, or dodges or blocks an opponent), or he maintains control of the ball long enough.
The movement of the ball does not automatically lead to loss of control.
If a player who has complied with (a) and (b) but failed to comply with (c) touches the ground and loses control of the ball, it is an incomplete pass if the ball touches the ground before the regained control, or if he regained control out of bounds
A receiver is considered a player in a defenseless position (see 12-2-7) throughout the catching process and until the player is able to avoid or block imminent contact from an opponent.
If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents and both players keep it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if one player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control. If the ball is tamped after being touched by two such players at the same time, all players on the passing team are entitled to catch the loose ball.
If a player in possession of the ball is stopped by an opponent and carried over the boundaries before both feet or any part of his body other than his hands touch the ground, that is a completed or intercepted pass. It is not necessary for the player to maintain control of the ball when it lands out of bounds.
Any forward pass (legal or illegal) is incomplete and the ball is instantly dead if the pass hits the ground or goes wide. An incomplete pass is a down loss and the ball returns to the previous spot.
Note: If there is any doubt as to whether a forward pass is complete, intercepted or incomplete, it must be scored as incomplete.
Bryant, who knows what he's talking about, was pretty uninterested.
Story originally appeared on Touchdown Wire

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