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Tamme touchdown brings convoluted rule back into focus

Jacob Tamme AP

The short touchdown pass from Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning to Broncos tight end Jacob Tamme that gave Denver the lead over the Steelers in the fourth quarter raised few eyebrows in real time.

But it should have.

The Tamme touchdown calls into question the rule that has been known by various names over the past few years.  From Louis Murphy in 2009 to Calvin Johnson in 2010, NFL officials both locked-out and otherwise have struggled with the question of whether a catch is a catch when the player is going to the ground and loses possession of the ball upon impact.

The rule comes from the effort to rectify the Bert Emanuel play from the 1999 NFC title game, when the catch was made, a portion of the ball struck the ground, but Emanuel never lost possession of it.  Now, the ball may hit the ground as long as it doesn’t move — and as long as whenever a player going to the ground while catching the ball maintains possession through the act of going to the ground.

That’s what apparently happened with Tamme on Sunday night.  He caught the ball near the end zone, and while crossing the plane also was falling and when he landed the ball squirted out.

The replay official — who is not a replacement employee — failed to buzz the referee for a closer look.  If a closer look had been taken, a tough decision may have arisen.

Yes, the player crossed into the end zone while falling down.  And, yes, he performed the so-called “second act” of lunging the ball forward, even though he already was in the end zone when he did.

Still, Tamme was going to the ground and he failed to maintain possession once he hit the ground.  Despite multiple discussions and examples and analyses over the years, the rule continues to require possession through the act of going to the ground, with no example for breaking the plane of the end zone while falling or otherwise performing a second act.  If you’re going to the ground, you’re required (per the rule book) to maintain possession after hitting the ground.  Tamme didn’t.

We’re not saying that the ruling should have been overturned.  But a closer look was justified.  And the thing about taking a closer look at any play is that the referee could overturn the ruling that was made on the field, even if the referee makes a mistake by doing so.

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57 Responses to “Tamme touchdown brings convoluted rule back into focus”
  1. Grinds My Gear says: Sep 10, 2012 12:49 AM

    Louis Murphy’s catch should’ve been a catch and Calvin Johnson’s catch should’ve been a catch. Plain and simple, both guys had possession when they landed. Play and possession should be over the moment a body part that signifies the end of the play is down, period. Why over complicate it?

  2. thestrategyexpert says: Sep 10, 2012 12:53 AM

    As a fan, and in particular as a Detroit fan, I felt the exact same thing when watching that play. I felt the pit in my stomach when I realized they would pounce on that for a review and a possible overturn, but when I saw that there was no second thought about it I had realized what had happened….

    I remember earlier in the day watching another player complain incessantly when he felt a flag should have been thrown for a player grabbing at him and he was grabbed quite a bit. But there was no flag. That play and the dismissal of this going to the ground play just goes to show that the game has changed, in such a way that the refs are letting the players settle the game on the field on their own terms more so than they otherwise have been.

    This New Football League is kind of an exciting change of pace. I like it. My Lions typically lose close games on account of just too many penalties and we come up just short. But not today, the Lions miraculously committed only 3 penalties all day long, this is nice!… 27 yards total of penalties, I never knew such a low number was possible. :)

  3. jaydm84 says: Sep 10, 2012 12:53 AM

    Are you joking? He took 4 steps before going to the ground. He clearly had possession.

  4. blacknole08 says: Sep 10, 2012 12:55 AM

    I agree… initially it looked like tamme did not fully control the bal as he hit the ground. But he did make a football move (dove for td after making the catch) and no matter how many times you look at it, there really was no way to overturn the original call.

  5. bigwaz says: Sep 10, 2012 12:59 AM

    More importantly, did he have posession before he crossed the plane? In which case, it wouldn’t make a difference whether he hit the ground or dropped the ball or not…

  6. johnnyb1976 says: Sep 10, 2012 1:00 AM

    It’s a stupid rule and it should be done away with.

  7. brownsalwaysrebuilding says: Sep 10, 2012 1:02 AM

    It was a legal touchdown.

  8. ch1ggs says: Sep 10, 2012 1:05 AM

    That’s not even close to being the biggest offender of the night:

    1. Refs failing to catch 12 men on the field.
    2. Not seeing Tomlin’s challenge flag and then allowing a challenge on a play after another play had been run.
    3. Not fixing the clock on the above play.
    4. Horrendous call on Rahim Moore for helmet to helmet–it was ridiculously incidental and get got hurt just as bad. Yay or the Nanny League.

    Broncos/Steelers was the worst officiated game of the day, and it hurt both teams.

  9. charlesanakin says: Sep 10, 2012 1:09 AM

    Tamme caught the ball, had possession with his feet down, then broke the plane of the goal line, then got tackled to the ground. After which the ball came out. Not quite the same as the Murphy or CJ plays.

  10. lightninglucci says: Sep 10, 2012 1:14 AM

    I believe…in THIS case…the Tamme was NOT in the act of going to the ground when he caught the ball.

    He caught the ball, took two steps, and then was tackled. If that is indeed the case, the “going to the ground” rule would not apply. This distinction has been mentioned by the NFL before.

    At least that’s how I saw the play. Others may disagree, and perhaps it was worth a review, as you say.

  11. descendency says: Sep 10, 2012 1:17 AM

    What you described sounds like a good touchdown to me.possession with two feet and a s second move in the endzone is a touchdown.

  12. raiderinva says: Sep 10, 2012 1:21 AM

    Thank you for not calling them the “Replacement Referee’s” .

    The season has started and they are the referee’s.

  13. primetime0552 says: Sep 10, 2012 1:34 AM

    this wast even close to the same thing as the ‘Calvin Johnson’ rule. Tamme had clear possession of the ball then reached for the goal line. once a runner crosses the plane of the goal line the play is over and its a touchdown. the fact the ball came.out doeasnt matter. Tamme was a runner at that point in the play and not a receiver.

  14. zidanevalor says: Sep 10, 2012 1:35 AM

    I disagree because Tamme wasn’t going to the ground as the result of trying to make the catch. Tamme caught the ball and then got tackled. So he caught the ball, got tackled, then the ball popped out once he crossed the goalline. That appears to be the difference to me between this catch and the Megatron/Murphy catches.

  15. adamjt13 says: Sep 10, 2012 1:37 AM

    Tamme was not going to the ground in the process of catching the ball, so it didn’t matter what happened after he got tackled in the end zone — he had already established possession of the ball. He caught the ball, had both feet down and reached the ball across the goal line — touchdown, play over. That he got tackled after he scored and the ball came out when he hit the ground is irrelevant.

    If Tamme had dived for the ball, THEN he would have needed to maintain control after hitting the ground. But he was on his feet when he caught it and established possession, so the play ended as soon as the ball crossed the goal line.

  16. yssupasigninnamnotyep says: Sep 10, 2012 1:38 AM

    What’s it matter? The Donkeys are going to win the SuperBowl with that traitor pencil-necked geek right? Everyone already says it’s so…MegaHead will lead the Donkeys to the Superbowl, and the refs will be by his side all season long.

  17. thesportsguy52 says: Sep 10, 2012 1:43 AM

    Queue the steelers fans with the “refs screwed us over again” and “so-and-so was injured! We would’ve won if we had him!!”.

  18. soflosportsfan says: Sep 10, 2012 1:49 AM

    Poor post. Tamme had control of the ball BEFORE the endzone and then crossed the line with possession. Play is over, TD. Everything that happens after is irrelevant. Once the ball crosses the plane its a TD. End of discussion.

  19. fmwarner says: Sep 10, 2012 1:51 AM

    Any ballcarrier that possesses the ball while it breaks the plane has scored a touchdown…no exceptions. How else could all those touchdowns count where a guy is flying out of bounds and waves the ball over the pylon? How is that not going to the ground?

    Rather, the issue here is that the rules are different for players who run into the end zone and players who catch the ball while already in the end zone. It’s ridiculous that catches like Louis Murphy’s and Calvin Johnson’s don’t count, but Tamme’s does. Either players scoring like Tamme need to possess the ball all the way to the ground, or players scoring like Murphy and Johnson need to be considered to have scored the second they clearly possess the ball in the end zone. It’s a loophole in the rules that needs to be closed.

  20. Grinds My Gear says: Sep 10, 2012 2:20 AM

    thestrategyexpert says:
    Sep 10, 2012 12:53 AM
    This New Football League is kind of an exciting change of pace. I like it. My Lions typically lose close games on account of just too many penalties and we come up just short. But not today, the Lions miraculously committed only 3 penalties all day long, this is nice!… 27 yards total of penalties, I never knew such a low number was possible.

    ——————————————-
    League refs has always had it out on specific teams. Look at the league’s golden child like the Packers and 49ers, they were flagged like crazy. There’s some good in replacement refs in that the bias towards certain teams that some of the older refs had against certain teams is gone.
    Watch the Raiders get flagged for less than 5 penalties. I think that’ll be the biggest indication.

  21. joetoronto says: Sep 10, 2012 5:06 AM

    Murphy was actually getting up off the ground when the ball came out.

    That was nuts.

  22. ravenator says: Sep 10, 2012 5:09 AM

    Must be hard for Steeler fans to wake up and see the reality which is that their team just isn’t good enough. It’ll be an interesting battle between the browns and steelers for the title of AFCN basement dweller.

  23. sudz28 says: Sep 10, 2012 5:50 AM

    I was surprised it wasn’t reviewed only because I thought all scoring plays were automatically reviewed these days? Although I didn’t think twice about it being a catch, I was just wondering if the ball had come out before he was down. It hadn’t, it was a legit touchdown as far as I’m concerned, and congrats to the Broncos for an excellent game plan that was well executed. Manning looked like he hadn’t missed a step from being out, once they went no-huddle.

  24. h2ik88 says: Sep 10, 2012 6:08 AM

    Man, I know Manning is a classy guy, but man did anybody else wanna see him just get down to one knee and Tebow?

  25. dirtdawg54 says: Sep 10, 2012 6:11 AM

    Cue the Steelers fans who will say “we got screwed”? Well, I’m a Steelers fan and I didn’t think we got screwed. That was clearly a TD. He was a runner, not a receiver at that point.

    If we are going to complain about who lost the game for us we can point at the same old suspects. Big Ben for under throwing a wide open Heath Miler and not picking up blown coverage that left Wallace with a walk into the end zone. The o-line for not looking revamped at all (although playing almost all night with only five guys was admirable someone has to get a note to the Steelers and let them know Mike Adams is not NFL-ready). And the defense for failing to put pressure on Manning.

    As for ch1ggs, there is no such thing as “incidental helmet to helmet” contact. It either is or snt. And if it is, it’s a penalty. It wasn’t necessarily a dirty play, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a penalty.

  26. mwindle1973 says: Sep 10, 2012 6:17 AM

    The rule only applies to gaining possession. He gained possession and was a runner when this happened. Ground can’t cause a fumble, and fumbles can’t happen once the runner breaks the plane of the end zone with the ball.

  27. dawhorsefeathers says: Sep 10, 2012 6:18 AM

    Everyone posting that “he crossed the goal line after the catch” or “football move this” or “two feet down that” is forgetting Gresham’s non-catch in Baltimore last year. None of that matters anymore. Bengals fans had it wrong last year and most of us apparently still do.

  28. contract says: Sep 10, 2012 6:46 AM

    Until they go back to the original … control + 2 feet = catch, this rule is never going to make any sense to anyone. It is just a jumble of nonsense.

    Yes I’m a Steelers fan. No I’m not upset about the ruling last night … mostly because I simply don’t understand the rule well enough to determine whether the officials got it right or not.

  29. shutupbrees says: Sep 10, 2012 6:55 AM

    Aren’t they supposed to review all scoring plays?

    Why would they have to buzz down?

  30. iced107 says: Sep 10, 2012 7:31 AM

    This officiating is absolutely garbage lately.

    The Steelers/Bronco’s game was bad, but I thought the Rams/Lions game was worse. I mean some of this stuff is just so blatant and still not even called..absolutely terrible.

  31. lostsok says: Sep 10, 2012 7:39 AM

    Totally a catch.

    And, honestly, I think the refs did a pretty good job in all the games I watched this weekend.

  32. nflofficeadmin says: Sep 10, 2012 7:45 AM

    Same Ol’ Steelers.

  33. ttgb2 says: Sep 10, 2012 7:48 AM

    Ok, let me go over this real quick as I understand it.

    Essentially there are two separate rules for scoring a touchdown.

    If you have control of the ball, and the ball breaks the plane of the endzone, you get 6. Makes sense.

    But then you complicate things when you start catching balls within the endzone.

    If the just “breaking the plane” concept worked in that situation, you could pretty much bounce the ball off the back of one of your players and have it be a TD. So there are additional criteria to make sure the guy actually catches the ball. Namely– two feet, or a knee, or rear-end, or what have you, in bounds, and the ball clearly in possession. Just like seeing if a pass is complete anywhere else on the field.

    Now if you complete that pass at the 10 yard line and your fellow runs it in, he can leap over the pylon, never set foot in the end zone, land on the sideline, and if that ball crossed the plane, it’s a TD. Likewise, if a runner crosses the plane and has the ball stripped, it’s not a fumble, because a TD has already been scored and the play ends the moment the ball crosses the plane.

    The issues with the so-called “Calvin Johnson” rule are essentially in deciding how long or how much control someone has to show when receiving IN the end zone and for how long in order for it to register as a TD.

    And those criteria seem to change with the whims of refs, replacement or not.

  34. oldschoolomen says: Sep 10, 2012 7:52 AM

    I don’t really understand the confusion in the rule. If you are going to the ground in the act of making a catch, you have to maintain control after going to the ground. Calvin Johnson didn’t.

    Tamme caught the ball without going to the ground. He dove/was tackled into the endzone. He doesn’t have to maintain possession through contacting the ground because he crossed the goal line. If the play happened at mid-field, it would have been a catch and down by contact. Not an imcomplete pass, not a fumble.

    The refs ruled that Gresham was going to the ground in the act of making the catch. Thus, he has to maintain control through landing on the ground. Unfortunately, I’m a Bengals fan, he didn’t.

  35. broncosnative says: Sep 10, 2012 8:14 AM

    ch1ggs says: Sep 10, 2012 1:05 AM

    That’s not even close to being the biggest offender of the night:

    1. Refs failing to catch 12 men on the field. 2. Not seeing Tomlin’s challenge flag and then allowing a challenge on a play after another play had been run. 3. Not fixing the clock on the above play. 4. Horrendous call on Rahim Moore for helmet to helmet–it was ridiculously incidental and get got hurt just as bad. Yay or the Nanny League.

    Broncos/Steelers was the worst officiated game of the day, and it hurt both teams.

    And I’ll throw two more in,
    Play clock was clearly at zero and there was no delay of game for the steelers.

    They called the 2 minute warning before the broncos went for the extra point. Things are looking really good for the regular refs, they’re probably watching these games and laughing at the horrible job the RRs are doing.

  36. blackandbluedivision says: Sep 10, 2012 8:20 AM

    You ever heard the term “the ground can’t case a fumble?” He had possession before he crossed the goal line so it wouldn’t be a incomplete pass and hitting the ground like that can’t cause a fumble. He’d be down by contact…in the end zone….Wait! Isn’t that a touchdown?!

  37. cleminem757 says: Sep 10, 2012 8:21 AM

    Ref was signaling for TD (correctly) before Talked was taken to the ground. Point is moot.

  38. blackandbluedivision says: Sep 10, 2012 8:22 AM

    If this were the case, we should review every touchdown where a Quarterback sneaks the ball across the goal line and losses possession. Duh, He had possession before he crossed the goal line.

  39. knucklehead93 says: Sep 10, 2012 8:30 AM

    Don’t forget about the Visanthe Shiancoe touchdown that was called back in 201o against the Green Bay Packers. Refs made a HORRIBLE decision to overturn.

    If that stays a TD, there’s a good chance the Vikings win that game, and then the Packers wouldn’t have even made it to the playoffs!!

  40. whatchutalkinabouthillis says: Sep 10, 2012 8:50 AM

    If it’s not a fumble when the player loses it after their body is down, why wouldn’t it be a catch in the same situation? I hate this rule.

  41. garykt739 says: Sep 10, 2012 9:27 AM

    I’m a Steelers fan, but that was a catch and a score. Once it crosses the plane it shouldn’t matter anymore.

  42. vietnambob2473 says: Sep 10, 2012 9:30 AM

    1. Refs failing to catch 12 men on the field. 2. Not seeing Tomlin’s challenge flag and then allowing a challenge on a play after another play had been run. 3. Not fixing the clock on the above play. 4. Horrendous call on Rahim Moore for helmet to helmet–it was ridiculously incidental and get got hurt just as bad. Yay or the Nanny League.

    Broncos/Steelers was the worst officiated game of the day, and it hurt both teams.

    And I’ll throw two more in,
    Play clock was clearly at zero and there was no delay of game for the steelers.

    They called the 2 minute warning before the broncos went for the extra point. Things are looking really good for the regular refs, they’re probably watching these games and laughing at the horrible job the RRs are doing.

    how about when Ben Roethlisberger was clearly stopped short on 4th and 1 and the refs called a 1st down. steelers were also granted a timeout after clearly being in delay of game as Ben called the timeout a full 2 seconds after the clock hit zero.

  43. razsan says: Sep 10, 2012 9:44 AM

    @oldschoolomen…didn’t see the Tamme catch but go back and watch the CJ catch. He caught the ball with 2 hands and landed on his feet. He then held the ball out like a loaf of bread and landed on he entire left side of the lower torso. He THEN used the ball as a buffer between him and the ground and let it go. How that isn’t a catch is beyond ridiculous.

  44. ironcity6pak says: Sep 10, 2012 9:52 AM

    Doesn’t matter, steelers clearly got beat this TD wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the game because Payton would have just driven then right down the field again. That’s one sorry looking secondary and Troys timing is deff off.

  45. oldschoolomen says: Sep 10, 2012 10:08 AM

    @razsan
    CJ caught the ball with two hands and landed on his feet, but in making the catch he was going to the ground. He hit the ground, used the ball in his hand as a buffer, and the ball came out. That’s not a catch at any level of football.

  46. robgilman says: Sep 10, 2012 10:23 AM

    They didn’t review it- Good. Now do away with the old idiot refs that would have called it back to boost ratings and get paid by their bookie.

  47. woowoo37 says: Sep 10, 2012 10:27 AM

    He had possession of the ball when the ball broke the plane of the endzone. End of Story.

  48. ravenscaps48 says: Sep 10, 2012 10:29 AM

    He caught the ball before the goal line anyways, so all the ball has to do is break the plain… Are people really complaining about this?

  49. nickster31 says: Sep 10, 2012 10:47 AM

    Steelers fan here, no question it was a TD. Possession, two feet, crossed goal line.

    The point no one seems to be realizing is that the review of all TD’s happen in the booth, and if there is a question, THEN it is sent to the ref, and he looks at it.

    The booth looked at it, it was a TD, no need to signal the ref to look at it because it was clearly a TD.

    I have to say, there were a LOT of errors in the Steelers vs Broncos game. None that had any impact on the outcome of the game, because the Steelers could not pressure Manning enough to stop them.

    However, I watched the Dolphins / Texans – Buccaneers / Panthers and Saints / Redskins games, and I don’t think the replacement refs did any worse in those games than the normal refs would have. Yes, there were mistakes, but even the real refs make mistakes.

  50. bleedgreen says: Sep 10, 2012 10:52 AM

    If the you catch the ball, and have possession of the ball, after the ball breaks the plain, it should be irrelevant. If a runner loses the ball a millimeter after crossing the line, its still a TD. If the QB coughs up the ball after his knee or elbow hit the ground, its down by contact. Same should be for receivers. Have the ball secure? Get both feet down? Its a TD regardless of if you lose it while going to the ground in the endzone. The only way I think it should be a fumble is if you’re NOT in the endzone, and no one touches you. Go up for a tough catch, have possession, and lose it after hitting the ground.

  51. bubba9er says: Sep 10, 2012 10:54 AM

    How about the punt return TD against the 9ers? If that is not an illegal block in the back, what exactly is? There was even a flag thrown, but they waived it off. How does that happen in open space with so many officials? If the 49ers had lost that game, I think my head would have exploded! There were at least 3 false starts by the 49ers that were not called too.

    The officiating has got to be cleared up. We are not griping about the occasional missed call on a rare play, we are complaining about the messed up calls on routine stuff that change the outcome of games. The roughing the passer against Clay Matthews was bull crap too. Still glad my 9ers won, but it was ugly.

  52. mikeanthonymirabella says: Sep 10, 2012 11:02 AM

    I guess no one but me saw the face mask penalty that was never called on 3rd down on that long drive of the Steelers. Because it wasn’t called it changed the whole reflection of the game as Steeler were force to kick a field goal instead of a first and 15 yds or at least half the distance to the goal and first down. Either way the Steelers would have scored a td instead of a field goal and Mannings 2 play td would essentially have been meaningless as I said preveioulsly it changed the whole reflection. Somebody please take a look at that play and see how blatant the facemask is actually pulling it down, where the rule is, it can’t even be touched anymore. Really, Really no call sucked on that play.

  53. taintedsaints2009 says: Sep 10, 2012 11:04 AM

    thank you!

    i said that wasn’t a TD because of the new dumb rule. but it’s the rule. he didn’t retain posession throughout the entire catch.

    not a TD.

  54. taintedsaints2009 says: Sep 10, 2012 11:05 AM

    it’s the rule! doesn’t matter if you think it’s dumb. you have to hold onto the ball the entire process. this guy did not.

  55. mikeanthonymirabella says: Sep 10, 2012 11:27 AM

    Sorry about my English grammer in regards to my comments. I mean’t, Complexion of the game not reflecting, now that I reflect on the comment but still a no call at all.

  56. footballchic777 says: Sep 10, 2012 11:31 AM

    Every TD is looked at by the replay booth. This catch was made in the field of play, NOT the endzone. He established contol

  57. wretchu says: Sep 10, 2012 2:03 PM

    taintedsaints2009 says:
    Sep 10, 2012 11:05 AM
    it’s the rule! doesn’t matter if you think it’s dumb. you have to hold onto the ball the entire process. this guy did not.
    ===
    You can think that if you want, but you’d be mistaken. That rule applies only when in the process of making the catch. Tamme made the catch, established possession, and started to turn towards the end zone. By the time he was being tackled, but had already become a runner – not a receiver – so the rule is entirely irrelevent.

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