Refs get it right on Calvin Johnson play


With the Lions beating the Vikings by 10 on Sunday, the decision to overturn a first half touchdown reception from Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson didn’t alter the outcome of the game.  But the rule, which is known by some as the “Calvin Johnson Rule” for an application that robbed the Lions of a Week One victory three years ago, continues to create confusion and controversy.

In this specific case, the rule was applied correctly.

A catch happens as the result of a three-step process.  Under part (a) of the rule, the receiver secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground.  Under part (b), he touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands.  Then, after part (a) and (b) have been completed, part (c) comes into play.  Under part (c), the catch is a completion if the player maintains control of the ball long enough to enable him to perform “any act common to the game (i.e., maintaining control long enough to pitch it, pass it, advance with it, or avoid or ward off an opponent, etc.).”

In this case, Johnson completed part (c) without first completing part (b).  Specifically, Johnson committed an act common to the game — lunging forward across the goal line — before getting his second foot down.

That’s what allowed the play to be reversed, and the reversal was the right call.  The question of whether a player has had the ball long enough to perform an act common to the game is necessarily subjective, making it virtually impossible to reverse the call on the field.  The question of whether Johnson got both feet down before making the act common to the game is far less subjective, and subject to the high standard that can trigger a reversal.

In this case, the video shows that Johnson got one foot down before lunging into the end zone, crossing the plane, hitting the ground, and losing possession.

While the Calvin Johnson Rule may continue to create plenty of confusion in the future, this time the NFL got it right.

36 responses to “Refs get it right on Calvin Johnson play

  1. I’m with papa on this one. If he caught it while diving into the endzone I’d get the call, but he planted his feet and jumped. Aw well, the Lions looked really good today, regardless.

  2. I don’t really care how exactly a catch is defined as long as the refs call it consistently. Johnson caught the ball while diving/falling to the ground and it popped loose. It was the correct call.

    I hated this rule at first, but it seems easier for the refs to get it correct this way when any motion to the ground counts. Before the refs had to define what was a football move and all that jazz which was subjective on every play.

  3. stupdiest rule in football. if catch the ball and have it when your feet touch the ground it should be a touchdown. how can it be a touchdown running if a guy fumbles it but has past the goal line but not if he cayches the ball in the endzone? come on florio lead the charge for a change in this ridiculous rule.

  4. This is why you should never leave the game in the officials hands. Either win big or lose bad..
    Replacement refs last year and now the regular refs…

    Maybe somebody should have pulled a power plug or something. Maybe this would have never happened

  5. The refs technically got it right. that said, the rule as it is written is NOT a good rule.

    He had 2 feet hit the ground with the ball completely in control. He is such a beast that he could willfully reach the ball over the goal line WHILE FALLING, still completely under control, and not lose control of the ball until it hit the ground in the end zone.

    That’s how the rule is written for RUNNING the ball in to the end zone – have possession and cross the goal line and whatever happens after that point is moot -it’s a TD.

    Not many fans will argue that Calvin’s catch, in the spirit of the game, shouldn’t count as a TD when it’s a legal catch and he willingly makes a move to break the plane of the goal line. He had 2 feet down. He had a clear catch. He had a TD. And then it got taken away on a technicality. Again. It’s a junk rule that needs to be fixed.

  6. If that play was ruled correctly, the rule should be changed – simple as that.

    Any idiot could see it was a TD! He caught the ball, then lunged across the goal line. He crossed the plane of the goal line with the ball firmly in his grasp. It traveled a couple feet past the goal line before it hit the ground. Later in the same game the ball never crossed the goal line, but it was declared a TD!

    When nobody can tell what the lawyers are going to rule, it should be changed. Any person with a brain could tell that was a TD. It takes a contortionist with a foot thick rule book to take it away. We are losing common sense in what was once a great game.

  7. A rule which takes several paragraphs to explain if it’s been applied correctly or not has major problems.

  8. What is the Calvin Johnson rule?

    If a receiver catches the ball in the endzone, controls the ball, and goes to the ground, its a TD. If a receiver does all thoes things while also being Calvin Johnson, no TD.

  9. It’s an awful rule, understood dimly, explained terribly, applied unevenly, is inconsistent with other extremely similar scoring plays and is highly impactful to the outcome of a game.

    It needs to go sooner than later.

  10. Anyone just see the Victor Cruz “touchdown”? looked awfully similar to the CJ play. He caught it and reached over the goal line, crossed it but lost the ball when he hit the ground. TD for Cruz but not for Calvin.

  11. So:
    a) CJ caught the ball
    b) Had 2 feet inbounds
    c) Dove for the end zone. A common football move that every RB, WR, TE, etc does while trying to cross the goal line.
    If they got that TD reversal right did they get the Cruz TD wrong? His play was exactly the same and the “review” took less than 15 seconds.

  12. I fail to understand how the Victor Cruz play doesn’t even warrant a review given the similarities to the Calvin Johnson play of earlier today.

  13. Yes Cruz never got the second foot down either. I have been saying for years that the officials and league have muddied the rules regarding a catch so much that nobody knows what is a catch anymore.

  14. Someone please explain why the Victor Cruz TD counts but the Calvin Johnson one does not? Really, id like to hear it from someone, like, how can that be argued in a logical way?

  15. I was glad when it was ruled an incomplete pass, only because I am a Viking fan and the call resulted in a botched field goal attempt and kept the Lions from tying the game.

    That rule is ridiculous though. If the play when Joique Bell barely got the tip of the ball over the line then fumbled is a TD, then the way Calvin caught the ball should be a TD. He secured the catch and got both feet down for crying out loud.

  16. Video above CLEARLY shows CJ has his 2nd foot down (see rooster-tail of pellets) before he lunges and certainly before the ball wiggles a little on impact, well after the ENTIRE BALL while in his possession clears the goal line.

    Same video shows Cruz NOT getting his 2nd foot down and the ball completely leaving his grasp!

  17. If a receiver puts both hands on the ball while in midair and in the course of falling to the ground puts both feet down first before his body and hands hit the ground, jarring the ball loose, is it a catch?

    If a receiver on the sideline reaches out to catch the ball while keeping both feet in bounds but loses the ball when he hits the ground out of bounds, is it a catch?

    I get the idea that he was lunging for the goal line, but all I saw was a continuation of forward momentum as he came down. On any play, the receiver needs to establish control of the ball AND HIS OWN BODY, otherwise losing control of the ball as he hits the ground makes it an incomplete pass.

    Let me put it to you this way….. if that same play did not involve crossing the goal line, would you all think it was a fumble or an incomplete pass? Watch the tape again, remove the goal line from your mind, and answer that question.

  18. the difference is he never had complete control of the ball even before he crossed the goal line…..therefore it is an incomplete pass…and no it’s not because it’s Calvin(who got shut down) it happens to everyone stop whining… it didn’t alter the final score our outcome of the game…

  19. Victor Cruz Td shouldn’t have counted based on the rule. Also please feel free to bring a safety over top of CJ every play to “shut him down” so that Reggie can tear you apart. No need to force the ball to Johnson if you can stop Bush lol

  20. Brewdogg
    If he does that exact same play trying to reach for a first down in the field of play, I’m hoping for incomplete, down by contact, or the ground can’t cause a fumble. I’m expecting them to rule fumble. He caught the ball then turned and propelled himself forward. A distinct football move. Two feet down.

  21. The reason Victor Cruz’s play is a catch is because Cruz was not going to the ground to complete the catch. Cruz caught the ball standing and then got tackled, losing the ball when he hit the ground. The tackle made all the difference. And yes, it’s STILL subjective to say Cruz would have caught the ball standing if he did NOT get hit.

    That’s the problem…these calls can be subjective. It would be better if they weren’t, but trying to make them less so created this screwy rule.

    For folks who think it’s a “bad” rule, you need to think of the other extreme…a lot of clear incomplete passes would suddenly become catches if we went with “control and two feet down” only.

    What we need are more clear exceptions. Want an example that’s not in the rule book?

    “One knee equals two feet”

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