Another year, another lost Calvin Johnson touchdown in Week One.
The Lions receiver more popularly known as Megatron had a touchdown removed from the board after a catch near the goal line resulted in Johnson landing in the end zone and losing possession of the ball. It was called a touchdown on the field. After automatic replay review, the ruling was change to incomplete.
For Lions fans, it’s an oldie but a not-so-goodie. In Week One of the 2010 season, Johnson lost a touchdown against the Bears after clearly catching the ball in the end zone and losing possession when touching the ball down with one hand in the end zone.
The rule, which sprouted from a non-catch by former Bucs receiver Bert Emanuel in the 1999 NFC title game, has created conflicting outcomes in recent years. The rule requires a player who goes to the ground to maintain possession through going to the ground, but it allows the player to lose possession if he’s able to commit a “football move” before hitting the turf.
That has spawned an argument that the rule recognizes that a “second act” wipes out the requirement of keeping possession when hitting the ground. The second-act exception (which appears nowhere in the rule book) has been applied most prominently in Super Bowl XLIV, when Saints receiver Lance Moore caught a pass at the goal-line on a two-point conversion, shoved the ball across the goal line while falling, and then lost the ball once he hit the ground.
Johnson’s play looked very similar. He caught the ball outside of the end zone, stuck the ball out as the crossed the plane, and lost the ball when he landed.
Arguably, it was a close call as to whether Johnson made a “football move” or committed a “second act”; the decision made via replay review was that indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call.
In the end, that could be where the mistake was made. While it’s possible Johnson didn’t complete the act of catching, it’s hard to call the ruling on the field indisputably wrong.