Last week the Detroit Lions were deprived of a game-winning touchdown when an apparent Calvin Johnson catch was ruled incomplete because he put the ball on the ground when he went down. This week the Lions benefited from the same rule — but only after a replay challenge.
In the first quarter of the Lions’ game against the Eagles, Michael Vick threw a deep pass to DeSean Jackson, who leaped for the ball, grabbed it, fell to the ground and had it pop loose.
The officials on the field ruled it a complete pass, and Lions coach Jim Schwartz went crazy on the sideline, wondering how Jackson could get a catch when he didn’t hold onto the ball while going to the ground.
Schwartz threw his challenge flag, and after a lengthy instant replay delay, the referee overturned the ruling and said it was an incomplete pass.
But the NFL’s rules on what constitutes a complete pass when a receiver goes to the ground still don’t seem to make much sense, and this play showed how absurd it is that the NFL is claiming there’s no gray area on this rule. If there’s no gray area, why didn’t the official on the field get it right? And if there’s no gray area, why did former head of officiating Mike Pereira, who commented on the play in his role as a FOX analyst, seem unsure whether it would be upheld or overturned?
The answer is that there is gray area. But at least Schwartz and the Lions can feel like the convoluted rule that hurt them last week helped them this week.