Unlike past years, the Super Bowl had only one controversial officiating decision.
But it was a big one.
After a fourth-quarter touchdown gave the Saints a five-point lead, New Orleans opted to go for two. Receiver Lance Moore caught a pass from Drew Brees at the goal line as Moore was falling. Eventually, Moore lost possession after he landed on the ground.
The ruling on the field? Incomplete. After a challenge from the Saints, the decision was reversed.
Boomer Esiason, who did a phenomenal job calling the game with Marv Albert on Westwood One, was incredulous. And rightfully so.
Here’s the official explanation from outgoing NFL V.P. of officiating Mike Pereira (via NFL spokesman Greg Aiello): “By rule, when a receiver with possession of the ball is in the act of going to the ground and performs a second act by reaching out to break the plane, that completes the process of the catch and the ball is dead when it breaks the plane.”
But that’s not what the rule says. Here’s the operative language: “If a player goes to the ground in the act of
catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he 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,
the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground,
the pass is complete.”
Basically, Pereira is applying an interpretation based on the assumption that Moore, while falling, secured possession and pushed the ball deeper across the goal line, before losing possession.
Again, that’s not what the rule says. It says that if the player is going to the ground in the act of catching a pass, he must maintain control after he touches the ground. Not during, but after. In other words, he must keep the ball until he comes to rest.
Moore didn’t — just like Louis Murphy didn’t way back in Week One. In the Murphy case, the call on the field of a touchdown was overturned. In this case, the call on the field of an incomplete pass was overturned.
And that’s the other problem we have with this one. Applying the “100 drunks in a bar” standard that prevented the officials from overturning two key rulings that fueled that Saints’ game-winning drive during sudden-victory overtime in the NFC title game, the ruling of an incompletion never should have been overturned tonight.
The only good news here is that the presence of Colts president Bill Polian on the competition committee virtually ensures that the rule will be addressed in the offseason.