Late in the first half of Sunday’s NFC title game, Packers cornerback Sam Shields made an impressive, full-speed, lunging, extended-body interception near his own end zone. Replays suggested that the ball hit the ground and moved as Shields landed, prompting FOX officiating guru Mike Pereira to conclude that the ruling should be overturned.
Referee Terry McAulay disagreed.
On the first drive of Sunday’s AFC version of the Super Bowl qualifier, Steelers tight end Heath Miller made an impressive, full-speed (for him), lunging, extended-body catch near the Jets’ end zone. New York coach Rex Ryan challenged, and the ruling was overturned.
But we didn’t see conclusive evidence that the ball hit the ground. Even if it did, Miller arguably managed to maintain possession, holding the ball in the crook of his elbow.
Either way, today’s rulings demonstrate the importance of clarifying the rule, so that the confusing and inconsistently-applied principle that applies when the ball hits the ground won’t continue fuel the perception that the officials don’t know what they are doing.
Here’s the simple solution. If the ball strikes the ground at all in the act of the player making the catch, the pass is incomplete. If receivers are now required to get two feet in bounds even if they’re being pushed out, receivers also should be required to keep the ball from touching the turf.