We’ve watched the new “Competition Committee” segment from Wednesday night’s edition of Total Access, and we’ve read MDS’s excellent summary of the message from Colts president Bill Polian.
Said Polian in defending the decision to take a game-winning touchdown away from the Lions, “For those of us who know the rule, there’s not a lot of confusion.”
The problem isn’t the rule, but the so-called “second act” exception. It was applied to give the Saints a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIV when receiver Lance Moore caught a pass at the goal line while falling, pushed the ball over the goal line while falling, and lost possession of the ball become coming to rest.
During the Super Bowl, former V.P. of officiating Mike Pereira said (via NFL spokesman Greg Aiello) that the officials made the right decision: “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.”
The term “by rule” implies that there’s a rule somewhere, anywhere that acknowledges the ability of a receiver to perform a “second act.” Though Polian’s segment could have been more clear on this point, it sounds as if he’s saying that the “second act” exception does not exist, even though new V.P. of officiating Carl Johnson has cited the “second act” exception when recently explaining the Lance Moore play.
“There’s no second act in possession,” Polian told Rich Eisen of NFL Network.
But then Polian suggested that Moore “did complete the play” when putting the ball over the goal line, which seems to indicate that there is a “second act” in possession.
Apart from Polian’s remarks, a source with knowledge of the league’s thinking on this issue has explained to us that, indeed, there is no and should be no “second act” exception. As a result, the only rule that matters is the rule that requires a receiver who goes to the ground while securing possession to keep possession through the first and only act of going to the ground.
And this makes Polian’s remarks — and his uncharacteristic restraint — even more confusing. Based on the current contention that a “second act” exception doesn’t exist, Polian’s Colts as a practical matter were screwed during a key moment of Super Bowl XLIV.
As we’ve recently mentioned, former Colts coach Tony Dungy pointed out on Sunday night at 30 Rock that a late-game five-point lead entails a much different dynamic than a late-game seven-point lead. On the ensuing drive, which was capped by cornerback Tracy Porter’s pick-six of Peyton Manning, the Saints knew that giving up a touchdown would at worst set the stage for overtime. If the Saints had led only by five, the Super Bowl would have been hanging in the balance on the Colts’ next drive.
By all rights, Polian should be livid that the non-existent notion of a “second act” was adopted to put his team in a seven-point hole late in the championship game. Privately, he possibly is. Publicly, he’s apparently opting to help circle the league’s wagons on an issue that has proved to be vexing, precisely because of this “second act” exception.
As best we can tell, the reality is that the league previously recognized a “second act” exception and, going forward, it will not be acknowledged. Under the rules as currently written, it’s the right approach. But don’t expect the league to admit in a clear and understandable fashion the fact that, during the climax to the 2009 season, a rule that really isn’t a rule helped the Saints rule over the rest of the league.