Sunday, September 12, 2010

Megatron is Still My Homeboy

I love this t-shirt so much, not only did I buy one, but I decided to give the guys at 313's Finest a free link

The officials working the Detroit Lions - Chicago Bears game in week 1 of the NFL season broke the hearts and spirit of plenty of Lions fans when they took away Calvin Johnson's (a/k/a Megatron) go ahead touchdown with just 24 seconds left in the game.

Officials insisted that they made the correct call because Johnson did not maintain possession of the ball "throughout the process of the catch." Even though the national media overwhelmingly bought into that explanation, here's why I think the officials were wrong.

The 2009 NFL rulebook addressing player possession in Article 7 reads:

"A player is in possession when he is in firm grip and control of the ball inbounds. To gain possession of a loose ball (a live ball not in possession of any player) that has been caught, intercepted or recovered, a player must have complete control of the ball and have both feet completely on the ground inbounds or any other part of his body, other than his hands, on the ground inbounds. If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any other part of his body to the ground or if there is any doubt that the acts were simultaneous, there is no possession. This rule applies to the field of play and in the end zone."

Note 1 on Article 7 says that:

"A player who goes to the ground in the process of attempting to secure possession of a loose ball (with or without contact by a defender) 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, there is no possession. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, it is a catch, interception or recovery."
The explanation that Johnson did not maintain control of the ball throughout the process of the catch provided by the officials is based upon the erroneous assumption that Johnson did not have possession of the football before he fell.

If you go back and watch the clip again, the ball was tight and secure in Johnson's hands as he established two feet on the ground. He did not go to the ground until he engaged in a football move by twisting and lunging forward.

My friends, tight ball control and two feet on the ground is possession by definition.

If Johnson had possession BEFORE he fell, which he clearly did, then Note 1 on Article 7, a/k/a the "in the process" provision, shouldn't even be a consideration.

Johnson's "catch" against the Bears was not the same scenario as a receiver who goes to the ground while dragging his feet or dives as he is in the process of securing possession of a pass, which is what I think Note 1 for Article 7 is referring to when it states that a player "must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground."

Johnson established possession by having "a firm grip and control of the ball" while touching "both feet completely on the ground inbounds" and taking another twisting hop step as he fell to the ground.

The only possible question of possession did not arise until after he hit the ground (but still maintained a tight grip), when he relinquished control of the ball as he rolled to an upright position in celebration of what he thought was a game winning score.

The officials who worked the Detroit - Chicago game continue to maintain that they got this call correct because Johnson did not "complete the entire process of the catch" by being able to hand the ball to the referee.

Yet by their reasoning, the play would have still resulted in an incompletion had Johnson brought the ball down, established two feet in the field of play, done 5 log rolls as he fell to the ground, then lost the ball on his sixth roll because he did not maintain control "throughout the process of the catch."

NFL lackey Mike Pereira and the national media keep telling me that I need to be upset with the NFL rule and not the game officials if I don't like the outcome of this game.

I disagree. I think the rule is fine, I just think that the game officials completely misapplied it to the circumstances of this game.

Calvin Johnson had possession of the football by the NFL's own definintion before he ever fell to the ground. Even when he did fall to the ground, he did not lose control of the ball while "simultaneously touching both feet or any other part of his body to the ground," as he reliquished the ball much later.

As a Lions fan, I would instinctually punch Mike Pereira in the face if I ever saw him walking down the street.

The officiating crew and the NFL talking heads both got this one wrong. Note 1 on Article 7 of the NFL rulebook (the notorious "in the process provison") should have never even have been in the discussion.

Now, if only we could go back to the glory days when officials actually respected the Lions:

(Sometimes I-I-I, I still see him when I sleep...and I don't, I don't sleep that much)