The most controversial call of Super Bowl 50 happened in the first quarter, when Panthers receiver Jericho Cotchery bobbled a ball on the way to the ground. The officials on the field ruled it incomplete, and referee Clete Blakeman, with the assistance of NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino, ruled on instant replay that the call on the field would stand.
Blakeman made it clear in announcing the ruling that the replay did not confirm the call on the field, only that the call stands. That meant there was no conclusive view of the play that could show definitively that Cotchery always had his hands between the ball and the ground, and so the Panthers would lose their challenge.
NFL Films has now shown the footage of Blakeman’s review and his subsequent discussion with Panthers coach Ron Rivera, and the discussion makes clear that Blakeman did not feel there was a definitive replay angle.
“We’re gonna go stands,” Blakeman said. “There was not enough confirmation. We couldn’t overturn it.”
Rivera asked Blakeman, “If you’d called it complete, it would have stayed complete, right?” Blakeman answered, “Yes.”
But that doesn’t quite align with Blandino’s explanation. Blandino wrote on Twitter that “the ball touched the ground and slid up his body. Not enough evidence to change the call on the field.”
If Blandino is sure that the ball touched the ground, then Blakeman should have explained to Rivera that the ball touched the ground. Instead, Blakeman just said that there was no definitive replay angle. At the end of a season in which officials, players, coaches, fans and reporters all struggled to figure out what constitutes a catch, the NFL struggled to explain why Cotchery’s catch was not a catch.