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Miller catch highlights confusion regarding going-to-the-ground rule

Heath Miller

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.

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41 Responses to “Miller catch highlights confusion regarding going-to-the-ground rule”
  1. nothingman20 says: Jan 23, 2011 7:11 PM

    Who else saw Mark Sanchez wipe a booger on that coach?

    You know you saw it.

  2. bspurloc says: Jan 23, 2011 7:13 PM

    .
    u MUST control the ball to the ground.

    he did not. therefore NO CATCH.

    where is the confusion?

  3. narrabeen23 says: Jan 23, 2011 7:17 PM

    wow, this is a stretch. i think the ball hit the ground but im just a lowly jets fan, what do i know?

  4. bensstinkyfingers says: Jan 23, 2011 7:17 PM

    No catch! Go jets!

  5. joetoronto says: Jan 23, 2011 7:17 PM

    It needs to be simplified, no doubt about it.

  6. grogansheroes says: Jan 23, 2011 7:19 PM

    Another Suckuli game. Be prepared for a flag fest. He loves him some face time. As an aside, doesn’t the NFL assign these games to refs based on merit? If so, how does the worst ref in the business get the AFC Championship game?

  7. andalohameansgoodbye says: Jan 23, 2011 7:20 PM

    The Steelers catch (ruled incomplete) was way more a catch than the Shields catch (ruled a catch.)

    If you A-B tested those two catches without context, with random NFL fans, I guarantee you a supermajority would declare that the Miller catch was the more “complete” one.

    This rule needs to be nuked from orbit and rewritten from scratch.

  8. brandonyer says: Jan 23, 2011 7:21 PM

    What is the confusion? The ball hit the ground in the Miller play and never hit the ball in the Shields INT???

  9. jeffz303 says: Jan 23, 2011 7:21 PM

    Who cares about the Miller catch–did anyone else see Sanchez wipe a booger on Brunell’s jacket? Freaking CLASSIC!! I was laughing so hard tears were coming out of my eyes.

    That’s just dirty, Sanchez!

  10. redgreen3b1 says: Jan 23, 2011 7:23 PM

    football was alot smoother before replay. That is the solution.

  11. patmcrotch says: Jan 23, 2011 7:26 PM

    What is your obsession with this rule? It seems to me that it’s a rule that is determined by the refs opinion of the play. Is it right? no, but it just gets old seeing a post every single time somebody challenges whether a play was a catch or not.

  12. nepatriots128154 says: Jan 23, 2011 7:28 PM

    “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.”

    ———————————————————————–

    Absolutely not. That would make a lot of awesome, clear diving catches incompletions. It would also make catches like C. Johnson’s from week 1 incompletions as well.

    Do you really want some guy to catch the ball, have complete and absolute control, fall to the ground and have the tip of the ball touch the ground, and then have that be called an incompletion? I don’t.

  13. knon2000 says: Jan 23, 2011 7:28 PM

    I thought that there would be some whining about the refs, but I didn’t expect it to be coming from Mike :)

  14. mybuttsayspft says: Jan 23, 2011 7:32 PM

    Written like a true Steelers fan.

  15. andalohameansgoodbye says: Jan 23, 2011 7:32 PM

    “Pat M. Crotch,”

    There needs to be a post every time this ridiculous “rule” is interpreted because these are major plays and the rule is broken. It should not be up to differing opinions and interpretations on game-changing championship plays.

    When the former director of officiating is saying one thing and the refs are saying another, it is a PROBLEM.

  16. tobiasjodter says: Jan 23, 2011 7:40 PM

    othingman20 says: Jan 23, 2011 7:11 PM

    Who else saw Mark Sanchez wipe a booger on that coach?

    You know you saw it.

    —————————-

    That was Mark Brunnell he was using as a tissue…

  17. lbijake says: Jan 23, 2011 7:41 PM

    I wish the teams would get out of the way so we can just watch a full day of Ed Hochuli. The arrogance of the NFL to think people actually care about games.

  18. tfaulk says: Jan 23, 2011 7:42 PM

    You have to be completely blind or a complete idiot to claim the ball didn’t touch the ground. It clearly touched the ground, bounced up (possession was not maintained), and then he established control in the crutch of his shoulder. Not a catch.

    Sam Shields bobbled the ball but it never touched the ground. The two scenarios are not analogous at all.

  19. peytonwantsaflag says: Jan 23, 2011 7:45 PM

    Absolutely not. That would make a lot of awesome, clear diving catches incompletions.

    No that would make a lot of awesome chear diving incompletions incompletions – those aren’t catches nepatriot….

    and they need to outlaw those super sticky gloves too (I’m serious)

  20. gregt23 says: Jan 23, 2011 7:45 PM

    I’m sorry, if that Steelers player did not make a “catch” then how can they consider anything a catch? The ball never hit the ground and he maintained possession. I feel the ref’s are controlling too much of the game.

  21. pghguyy says: Jan 23, 2011 7:48 PM

    brunell should have knocked dirty sanchez out for that booger.

  22. 4ever19 says: Jan 23, 2011 7:50 PM

    The officiating in the JV game (NFC) was pathetic. The intentional grounding call on Caleb (Mr.) Hanie was just laughable.

  23. nekelund says: Jan 23, 2011 7:55 PM

    With respect to the Shields INT, the angles I saw watching tv were not at all conclusive as to whether the ball touched the ground or not, as Shields had one hand beneath the ball as it hit the ground. I’m not saying it didn’t touch the ground and the ball certainly moved, but unless you saw video angles I didn’t, the two “catches” are not comparable, as Shields’ didn’t clearly touch the ground. Maybe there’s another angle, but the officials certainly seem to agree with my view.

  24. snnyjcbs says: Jan 23, 2011 8:06 PM

    That is where you are wrong, the NFL knows exactly what they are doing. Big plus when you can make on the same play a call to benefit what ever team you like. It is a catch in one game it is not in the next, lots of leeway for the NFL to nudge a game one way or the other as the GREEDY NFL OWNERS OF TODAY would like to see move on, its all about the dollar. Now that Pereira is no longer in the NFL we can see that he did not believe half the crap he use to explain as “the right call” while on NFL Network. He says the Tuck Rule is a Joke as well.

  25. grogansheroes says: Jan 23, 2011 8:07 PM

    24-0. Looks like the Jets won their Super Bowl last week. Hope Pitt puts another 24 on them in the second half.

  26. b7p19 says: Jan 23, 2011 8:08 PM

    Miller overturned catch was right, sheilds confirmed INT was wrong. The rule is simple and doesn’t need to be changed. What needs to be changed are the knuckleheads in the media that can’t seem to grasp it.

  27. grogansheroes says: Jan 23, 2011 8:08 PM

    4ever19 says:
    Jan 23, 2011 7:50 PM
    The officiating in the JV game (NFC) was pathetic. The intentional grounding call on Caleb (Mr.) Hanie was just laughable.
    __________________
    I think GB bets either one of these teams.

  28. unbreakable02215 says: Jan 23, 2011 8:08 PM

    From a Pats fan: Congrats Stillers. Go get another
    Lombardi now.

  29. tk1966 says: Jan 23, 2011 8:27 PM

    I know why it wasn’t a catch – the refs and the want the Steelers to win!

    Wait, that doesn’t fit with the alleged conspiracy…

  30. flash1283 says: Jan 23, 2011 8:31 PM

    Please please show LT crying on the sideline !!!

    All that talking all year for NOTHEING!!!

    Ha ha ha !!!!!!

    To bad fat man!!

  31. jamie54 says: Jan 23, 2011 8:31 PM

    Did not see the ball touch ground at all on Miller’s “non” catch. He had his hand under the whole time and regrasped it while turning but ball did not touch turf. Sure thought that was a completion.

  32. scytherius says: Jan 23, 2011 9:30 PM

    Yeah this is a screwy rule.

  33. badcallsfootball says: Jan 23, 2011 10:17 PM

    what a bad day for NFL officials. First all the questionable calls that went the packers way, now this

    check out badcallsfootball.com for analysis of todays officiating

  34. David Rajakovich says: Jan 23, 2011 10:37 PM

    A catch is a catch. The NFL has made something very easy into something very difficult. The Miller catch/non-catch illustrates the problem…referees are now finding reasons why plays should not be ruled as catches, which is ridiculous. We need to take the technicalities out of the rule…when you try to make rules that sound logical, thorough, and detailed for something that happens in an imprecise environment, you are asking for inconsistent interpretation. The rule should return to its roots, and basically say that if a receiver controls the ball, then it is a catch. Whether it touches a blade of grass or not, should be irrelevant.

    Also, the nonsense about going to the ground should be scrapped. Whether you catch the ball on the ground or in the air, the rule is the same…i.e. did you control the ball? If you catch and control the ball in the end zone, then obviously the play is over because you have controlled the ball in the end zone, which ends the play as a TD. This silliness is the number 1 priority for the rules committee (labor dispute notwithstanding) this offseason. It has led to the Polamalu interception travesty, Calvin Johnson silliness, the Miller catch/non-catch, and countless others all over the NFL.

  35. badcallsfootball says: Jan 23, 2011 11:13 PM

    Absolutely not. That would make a lot of awesome, clear diving catches incompletions. It would also make catches like C. Johnson’s from week 1 incompletions as well.

    Do you really want some guy to catch the ball, have complete and absolute control, fall to the ground and have the tip of the ball touch the ground, and then have that be called an incompletion? I don’t.

    You mean like Visanthe Shianco’s catch against the packers that was incorrectly ruled incomplete?

    http://www.startribune.com/sports/vikings/105740728.html

    http://badcallsfootball.com/2010/10/30/bad-call-of-the-week-week-7/

    He did exactly as you described and as the rule is written it was a catch. Yet somehow officials still blew the call, even after a replay review. Obviously the rulebook needs to be simplified if these guys cant get it right even when looking at it in slow motion from 20 different angles.

  36. Deb says: Jan 23, 2011 11:35 PM

    Both the Shields’ INT and the Miller catch should have been ruled completions–and would have been once upon a time. Unfortunately, we’ve just about over-examined these brilliant moments out of the game. But if the criterion is whether the ball touched the ground, closeups and slo-mos will show Miller’s never did.

  37. stixzidinia says: Jan 23, 2011 11:40 PM

    As a Steelers fan I’m glad it was overturned. Gives the haters one less excuse about the refs to cry about.

  38. ihateannouncers says: Jan 24, 2011 1:11 AM

    What really surprised me is that the play was overturned. How did Hochuli have enough CLEAR AND INCONTROVERTIBLE (beyond dispute,…had to look that up) evidence to overturn that play before or after Miller hit the ground??? The roids are getting to Ed.

  39. gairzo says: Jan 24, 2011 1:56 AM

    The rules are fine.

    The interpretation of the rules stinks.

    To be overturned, any play must have “indisputable visual evidence.”

    The moment you have Know-it-All Nance giving Phil Simms an opinion that goes against the on field call and Simms disagrees AND they both use the same video to support their opinions that means the video evidence under examination is f#@!ing disputable.

    If a ref looks at a video and has to argue with the little people on his shoulders the evidence is disputable–call stands.

    The meaning of the word indisputable is crystal clear.

    The refs should carry a dictionary with them.

  40. urworstnitemare58 says: Jan 24, 2011 10:10 AM

    I’d like to know what some of these posters saw when they say they saw the ball touch the ground! But what the heck, even with the refs and that bad call the Burg still puts up seven.

  41. pravin68 says: Jan 24, 2011 4:26 PM

    I am not saying the Heath catch was 100% a catch. But at the same time, I dont find any reasonable evidence to tell that the ball actually touched the ground. His hand/body was below the ball at all times. If it were ruled otherwise, I would have a hard time overturning that too even if I feel it was more probably a catch than not.

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