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Bill Belichick was in no mood to discuss the controversial reversal of Hunter Henry’s third-quarter touchdown catch after Thursday night’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
"Why don't you guys go to the officials with your pool reporter and ask them about the play and let them explain it to you? Isn't that what you do?" he snapped.
So ESPN’s Mike Reiss, the designated pool reporter for Pro Football Writers of America, did just that, and the league’s answer wasn’t terribly satisfying.
NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Walt Anderson said the call of a touchdown catch was overturned because the ball “ended up touching the ground” as Henry reached for the goal line and that he then “lost control of the ball in his hands.”
Elements of that are certainly true – the ball did touch the ground and did wobble out of Henry’s hands as he rolled. But he had both hands on the ball, with one hand underneath it, when the ball contacted the ground, and the ball is typically allowed to contact the ground as long as it doesn’t move immediately. In this case, the football only appeared to move after Henry had already started to raise the ball away from the turf.
“Well, if he had maintained control of the ball with two hands, even if the ball were to touch the ground, if you don’t lose control of the ball after it touches the ground, that would still be a catch,” Andersen confirmed.
In short, the officials must have believed Henry lost control of the football the moment it hit the ground, which again doesn’t seem borne out on the replay. Additionally, Henry clearly controlled the ball again on his back while in the field of play, which is more evidence the play could've been considered a catch even if it wasn't a touchdown at that point.
Andersen added that Henry couldn’t be granted control of the ball before he hit the ground – even though he was consciously reaching for the goal line – because he didn’t establish all three elements of a “catch”: feet down, control and maintaining that control through contact with the ground.
In short, the Calvin Johnson/Dez Bryant Rule strikes again, and the Patriots lost their best chance at an elusive red-zone touchdown because of it.
At some point, the league probably needs to re-examine its catch rules again because it seems like no one knows what does and doesn’t constitute one. That’s kind of a problem in a league that passes all the time, right?