Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys reeled in a miraculous catch against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Championship game Sunday—one that should have given the Cowboys a decisive advantage going into the final four minutes of the game, but didn’t. At first, the referees called it a catch, but after a challenge by Green Bay, the call was reversed. The NFL’s long history of dysfunctional officiating has a pretty simple solution: common sense.
Article 3A of the NFL Rulebook states, “A forward pass is completed if [the player] secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground and touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands and maintains the ball long enough to to enable him to perform any act common to the game.” It goes on to say,”If a player has control of the ball, a slight movement of the ball will not be considered a loss of possession.”
Recently, Article 3A Item 1 was added which says,”If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass he must maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground.”
Confused yet? You are not alone. The rules are too wordy and have proven to create more confusion than clarity throughout history.
Upon further review of Bryant’s catch, the rules were conflicting each other. Bryant had two feet in bounds and had possession of the ball going to the ground. As he was going to the ground, he lunged the ball toward the end zone. I would say a lunge is an act “common to the game,” but along with the rest of the United States, I have no idea what “an act common to the game” officially exactly. However, when the ball hit the ground, the ball was jarred loose. Bryant promptly recovered it in the end zone. Was the play a fumble or an incompletion? After reading the rules, I have no idea.
The officials have the ultimate decision. Because there are close to 130 pages in the NFL rulebook, often times officials have the option of choosing which rule they want to use. Then, they undergo the long process of justifying the rule they may or may not have used.
Because rules can be misconstrued, common sense should be the trump card. “Even though 99% of people would say the Dez play should have been a catch—including me—it has been consistently called a no catch for the last five years,” former coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Tony Dungy, said.
As laughable and unfair as that may sound, it is true. Because common sense is lost in the NFL, many teams have lost football games. In this case, Dez Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys were the victims.
“He clearly caught the ball. At some point common sense has to outweigh the 27-step process to ‘complete ‘ a catch,” sports anchor for TWC SportsChannel Mick Shaffer said.