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The Nfl's Catch Rule

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Coming off a devastating touchdown reversal against his team on Sunday night, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin predicts intense offseason discussion over the NFL’s catch rule. Tomlin, who’s on the league’s competition committee, saw officials overturn tight end Jesse James 10-yard touchdown catch against the New England Patriots with 28 seconds left because he didn’t survive the ground. The Patriots held on to win 27 to 24 after Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception with five seconds left. “I think that we all can acknowledge that all of this needs to be revisited,” Tomlin said. “It’s not just this play. As a member of the committee, I acknowledge we have our work cut out for us this offseason regarding a number of those things.” Emotions were high in the Steelers postgame locker room after players watched James catch the ball with his knee down, then attempt to extend the ball over the goal line. After he did, the ball slipped out of his hands and touched the ground. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster called the reversal “bull.” NFL rules require receivers to possess the ball after initial contact with the ground.

The review process took nearly three minutes, and Tomlin said officials warned him they would run 10 seconds off the clock if it was deemed a completion at the 1-yard line, where James knee was down. That complicated the Steelers play calling, Tomlin said,”because an incompletion was probably the least likely of the scenarios from my expectations.” Jesse James 10-yard touchdown reception was overturned Sunday after officials ruled he did not survive the ground. As reported by Charles LeClaire USA TODAY Sports. As a result, Roethlisberger said on his weekly radio show the Steelers had one play called, a 3 yard pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was tackled in bounds with 22 seconds left and the Steelers wished they had two plays called and ready to go.

The play caused a ripple effect through the NFL similar to the one after Dez Bryant’s controversial non-catch in the 2015 playoffs. Coach Bill O’Brien, whose Houston Texans playd the Steelers on Christmas Day, said “surviving the ground isn’t applicable in other levels of football.” “I realize we have a higher standard in the NFL, the highest level of football, but I think when you’re in the heat of the moment and the way the game is played, guys are trying to make plays,” O’Brien said on a conference call with Pittsburgh media. “I think we do have to discuss the rule” Tomlin said as he discussed the controversial ending, confirming he told Roethlisberger in the headset to run a play on third down in the final seconds.

As the Steelers scrambled to get lined up, Roethlisberger gave the spike signal, then faked the spike and attempted a pass to Eli Rogers in double coverage over the middle. Patriots cornerback Eric Rowe tipped the ball to safety Duron Harmon for the interception. Roethlisberger told the media after the game that he wanted to spike the ball and give his team the option for a game-tying field goal but was told by coaches to run a play. Tomlin said he had a good discussion with Roethlisberger about the sequence.

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The NFL’s Catch Rule. (2019, February 27). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 25, 2022, from
“The NFL’s Catch Rule.” GradesFixer, 27 Feb. 2019,
The NFL’s Catch Rule. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Jun. 2022].
The NFL’s Catch Rule [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Feb 27 [cited 2022 Jun 25]. Available from:
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