The New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys have long had a fierce rivalry. Dating back to the 2000-2001 season, the Giants lead the series 17-11. Nine of the 17 wins came at Texas Stadium or Cowboys Stadium (now AT&T Stadium), and the teams split the season seven times during that period. To say that the rivalry is heated is putting it mildly, so when Mike Pereira, the former head of officiating for the NFL, says that Victor Cruz's fourth quarter touchdown should have been an incomplete pass, fans on both sides raise their eyebrows.
“The Cruz catch was ruled complete. It should not have. Ball came loose when he hit the ground. He did not complete the process,” Pereira wrote on Twitter.
He has a point. The ball did wobble. But the official called it a catch, and the assistant in the booth was confident enough in the call that he chose not to have the head official review the play. A mistake by both of them, but it certainly didn't cost anyone the game like the missed third down call in the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers game on Sunday. Take the touchdown away and it's still a loss on the Giants, it's just a 12 point loss instead of a five point loss. So why is this such a big deal? It didn't affect the outcome of the game, but Pereira certainly made sure to get his view out there.
The reason this is such a big deal is because of the rule itself. The NFL rule dictates that a player must maintain possession through the entirety of the catch. The rule has become known as the "Calvin Johnson" rule for the huge controversy that ensued three years ago after Johnson dropped a ball after he broke the plane. Since then, fans and players alike have called the rule into question and demanded further explanation as to what actually constitutes a catch. If Cruz's touchdown is legitimate, then Johnson was robbed of a touchdown three years ago.
Pereira seems to believe that there is no difference between the two plays, and while he helped establish this fundamentally broken rule, he has also criticized it. Along with just about every football fan and member of the media that pays attention to the NFL. The rule is vague, stating that the catch is a completion as long as the player maintains possession of the ball long enough to complete "any act common to the game (i.e. maintaining control long enough to pitch it, pass it, advance with it or ward off an opponent)." However, running backs do not have such a rule when pounding the ground. All they have to do is break the plane and it's a touchdown. As long as a body part is touching the turf prior to a fumble, it's a touchdown. Someone from the NFL league office needs to address this, stat.
If a running back doesn't have to maintain possession through a hit because they are down by contact, then why does a receiver have to maintain possession through a catch if they have both feet in bounds and control of the ball before losing it? This is a huge issue among players, and obviously a big problem among officials. How can the NFL expect every call to be made accurately, when the definition is so arbitrary? The officials are the ones who need to step up and say something. They are the ones making the incorrect calls and potentially costing teams games, and then they could be subject to punishment if they get the call wrong and it does cost a team the game.
The officials definitely need to take a stand on this one, and the players need to get on their side. Until there is clarification on what is to be deemed a catch, officials will continue to miss calls. Not intentionally, but because even the NFL doesn't know what constitutes a catch. For now, every player who has the potential to receive a ball needs to clutch it tighter than they ever have before. Because if they don't, and that ball wobbles even a little bit, it's pretty likely that the catch is coming back.
On Sunday, the Giants host the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium. In what has been dubbed "The Manning Bowl," Eli Manning has lost to his older brother Peyton Manning in their only two meetings against each other in the NFL. Both squads need to prepare to hang on to the ball, but maybe Cruz should try a little double-sided tape on the arms and gloves, just to be sure.
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