Maybe some day the NFL will have a catch rule that the fans can understand. But that day has not yet come.
The most recent example of that came in last week’s Seahawks-Cardinals game, when Cardinals running back Andre Ellington grabbed a pass, took multiple steps, went to the ground and dropped the ball. On the field, that was ruled a catch and a fumble.
But on instant replay, the ruling was reversed to an incomplete pass. In the league’s weekly officiating video, NFL V.P. of Officiating Al Riveron explained why he reversed it, and said it doesn’t matter how many steps a receiver takes with control of the ball: If he’s going to the ground while he’s taking all those steps, he needs to maintain control when he hits the ground.
“We see the receiver control the football and then immediately, just prior to him turning, he starts to go to the ground,” Riveron said. “Control, he’s now going to the ground, two, three, maybe even four feet down. But he’s going to the ground. If in the process of completing the catch, the receiver is going to the ground, whether he’s going to the ground on his own or whether he’s touched by another player, he must maintain control of the football upon his initial contact with the ground. And as we see here, the minute he hits the ground the ball comes loose. Therefore it’s an incomplete pass.”
That won’t satisfy everyone. But it’s the answer the NFL is sticking to.