“Going to the ground” could be eliminated from catch rule

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The NFL Competition Committee met on a variety of issues on Monday, including the oft-discussed rule governing what constitutes a catch.

Judy Battista of NFL Media reports that one of the things being considered on that front is eliminating the portion of the rule that calls for a player to retain possession while “going to the ground” for a play to be ruled a catch.

Under the current rule, “a player is considered to be going to the ground if he does not remain upright long enough to demonstrate that he is clearly a runner.” In such cases, a player needs to maintain control of the ball through “initial contact” with the ground whether they’ve been contacted by a defensive player or not.

Battista adds that the committee is also looking at more ejections resulting from on-field fights, a targeting rule similar to college for hits to the head and the possibility of changing the defensive pass interference rules from a spot foul to a 15-yard penalty in addition to a renewed focus on illegal contact penalties in the passing game.

91 responses to ““Going to the ground” could be eliminated from catch rule

  1. “in addition to a renewed focus on illegal contact penalties in the passing game”
    ______________

    How would this differ from last year’s wave of holding penalties on pass plays? And pick plays was also a point of emphasis last season, if I recall.

  2. Just tell us what we really want to know. Under this change, would Dez have caught it?

    Because any catch rule changes that don’t end in “Dez would have caught it under this change” are void and invalid and need to be re-worked.

  3. Defensive pass interference being 15 yards make too much sense for the NFL. Remember that the NFL really, REALLY wants more offense. Reducing this to 15 yards makes every corner who is beaten try to use PI to prevent a long gain/TD.

    It will never be approved.

  4. Changing the DPI rule to maximum 15 yards is a horrible idea. So anytime a DB is beat 20 yards down field, he can just commit a blatant penalty and come out ahead in the deal as a result? How about just loosening the rules so that every little pinky finger that grazes a receiver downfield doesn’t illicit a refs itchy flag trigger finger? And the emphasis that was placed on OPI this year was a joke. Calling back countless big plays because a receiver was trying to make a play for the ball. This isn’t what fans pay top dollar to come watch.

    They’re trying to make the game perfect when it is imperfect by nature. LET THESE GUYS TRY TO MAKE PLAYS ON THE BALL DOWNFIELD WITHOUT CALLING EVERY TICKY TACK LITTLE BIT OF CONTACT A PENALTY! Don’t change the rules to encourage DB’s to save their own backsides by intentionally committing MORE of them!

    Man, how hard is this stuff? How does a room full of professional football lifers have such a hard time figuring out how the game should be played?

  5. Finally!
    There is no reason to use what happens after possession of the football to determine possession. If a player has possession, isn’t touched and hits the ground, losing the ball it’s a fumble. If a player has possession, two feet down and goes out of bounds. It’s a catch. If a player has possession, the ball crosses the goal line and it comes loose after, it’s a TD. There will be more fumbles for sure, but that’s fine. Separate possession from what happens after and it’s a much simpler determination.

  6. The targeting rule in college is so lame. Players should not be ejected unless it is horribly blatant. Way too many legal (but violent) hits get flagged in college.

  7. I think this is a good start. That whole portion of the rule has destroyed the game for me, because it is very subjective and doesn’t actually reflect what a catch is in my book. I’ve seen too many big games decided by that clause (1 is too many; there’s been more than 1) and it is time for it to go.

    I think – still contemplating it – that I would also prefer a 15 yard penalty for DPI. Not because I disagree with the spot foul per se, but because they call DPI if any player (especially a Patriot) raises his hands in frustration at any contact. Refs almost look like they are waiting for the player to complain and THAT takes away from the game for me.

  8. This rule has been way over analyzed. Use the eye test – if it looks like a catch and he has 2 feet down with control, it’s a catch. If everyone watching on TV thinks it’s a catch then it should be a catch.

  9. Please leave the DPI foul as is. It being a spot foul is one of the few good rules that differentiate the pro game from college and high school. It also prevents a defender from deliberately causing a DPI foul. For example, a 40 yard pass to the end zone…if a defender knows he is beat then surely he will deliberately commit the foul because he knows it’s only going to cost his team 15 yards as opposed to a 1st and goal at the one.

  10. I like fixing the catch rule and the spot foul, but more illegal contact calls? Isn’t the game already slanted towards offense?

  11. I’m not sure if I’m gonna be a fan of the new P.I. Rodgers deep ball is gonna be less threatening. I also feel like coaches are gonna be coaching players if you get burned just tackle them instead of a possible 80yd TD it will be a 15yd penalty cuz the DB just trips him or gets him down some how. I know it works in college but don’t keep up enough will college FB to know if there’s another consequence for tackling player to ground for an “intentional” pass interference. But so glad they’re revisiting the catch rule.

  12. So, with eliminating the “going to the ground”, if you make the catch, while going to the ground, and the ball is dislodged before you’re touched, it’s a fumble, right? Not an incomplete pass. Even if the ground causes the fumble. At what point during the catch is a catch a catch? This is so convoluted.

  13. The catch rule isn’t the issue – it’s the INCONSISTENT interpretation and application of it. If the refs and NY all get on the same page, and reviews that don’t show enough evidence to overturn the call on the field, then leave it be.

    As to targeting rules and DPI resulting in 15 that sounds good. Too often DPI has been resulting in huge gains on what were commonly uncatchable balls.

  14. I like the current rule, only I would adda one thing. The player should retain possession while inserting the ball into a regulation-size Sentry safe strapped to his waist. If he loses control during this transfer — which includes the deployment of the 3 digit combination code needed to open the safe — it is ruled an unsecured ball. As a corollary to the rule, the defender is prohibited from making contact with the receiver during the second and final combination number — at which point he is considered a defenseless receiver.

  15. great.

    what about when the clearly bobble the ball after getting 2 feet down as they are running out of the endzone, and ultiatemly fail to show true control of the ball with 2 feet down INBOUNDS?

    kinda like, exactly like Corey Clement did in the SB to earn a GIFT TD from 345 Park Avenue?

  16. More unfair pampering of the Jets. Just look at all the rules they don’t have to worry about:

    —Completed catches
    —Touchdown celebrations
    —Victory formation

  17. Regardless, the Steelers will continue to lose to the Patriots and will continue to blame the refs.

  18. All of these things make good sense, which of course means Roger Goodell’s National Integrity League will approve none of them.

  19. If a NE opponent gets flagged for pass interference, at the end of a close game, the competition committee will probably get rid of PI too.

    Listen, if the friggin receiver has control of the ball when the elbow, knee, head or butt hits the ground, even if he is not touched, call it a catch. Sounds pretty simple.

    The Jesse James play? Well, the way it was called on the field is how it was written up in the rule book.

    They have to do something about that dumb rule if you don’t have control of the ball crossing the pylon. That is just plain dumb. Just mark it at the 1. What sense does it make. If a runner fumbles the ball out of bounds at the 35 yard line they just mark it at the 35.

    I’m sure this will also get changed as it did benefit NE against, I believe, the NYJ.

  20. Don’t touch it! the rule is fine as is.

    If you make a catch while going to the ground, you should be required to hold onto the ball after hitting the ground. How is this unfair or unclear at all.

    Jesse James – clearly incomplete since he NEVER’t established possession, hit the ground and lost control.

    Zach Ertz – clearly complete/TD since he clearly established possession (3 steps) and then crossed the plain of the endzone WITH POSSESSION. Anything that happened after didn’t matter.

  21. “the possibility of changing the defensive pass interference rules from a spot foul to a 15-yard penalty”
    ——————————————
    Looks like Harbaugh better get to work on a new playbook.

    🙂

  22. jman967 says:
    February 27, 2018 at 1:35 pm
    Finally!
    There is no reason to use what happens after possession of the football to determine possession. If a player has possession, isn’t touched and hits the ground, losing the ball it’s a fumble. If a player has possession, two feet down and goes out of bounds. It’s a catch. If a player has possession, the ball crosses the goal line and it comes loose after, it’s a TD. There will be more fumbles for sure, but that’s fine. Separate possession from what happens after and it’s a much simpler determination.
    ——————————————-
    None of these “surviving the ground” rules even go into effect IF you’ve already established possession. You need rules like “surviving the ground” in the cases where a guy HAS NOT established possession and make a catch while going to the ground, or makes a mid air catch.

  23. itsjustmyopinionbut says:
    February 27, 2018 at 1:54 pm
    So, with eliminating the “going to the ground”, if you make the catch, while going to the ground, and the ball is dislodged before you’re touched, it’s a fumble, right? Not an incomplete pass. Even if the ground causes the fumble. At what point during the catch is a catch a catch? This is so convoluted.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Agreed.
    I would change that to mean while untouched on the field of play. If a guys has 2 feet down and possession in the end zone it is a TD. If he falls out of bounds the play is over the instant he contacts OB so losing the ball would happen after the play is already over. They would still need to address the plays where the hit happens slightly after the ball is “caught” and the ball is lost. There is a way to write it so that the INTENT of the rule is actually taken into consideration on the judgment calls officials will inevitably have to make. It will require clear language, an understandable explanation and proper training.

  24. bwoo72 says:
    February 27, 2018 at 2:02 pm
    Good. It’s about time.

    Let’s go back to the days of “the ground can’t cause a fumble”
    ———————–
    The ground still can’t cause a fumble. But one must actually have possession of the ball first.

  25. chc4 says:
    February 27, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    The targeting rule in college is so lame. Players should not be ejected unless it is horribly blatant.
    ————————

    That is the targeting rule in college.

  26. The “going to the ground” rule makes perfect sense and isn’t a problem. If you’re not running, and you’re not going out of bounds when you make the catch, you need a test for possession. That test is holding onto the ball through hitting the ground. Simple.

  27. Current DPI needs to be changed.

    If the completion would have been for less than 15 yards
    penalty should yards or half the distance.

    If the completion would have been for more than 15 yards
    penalty should be half the distance.

  28. I don’t like this idea of turning PI into a non-spot foul. Make it a 15-yard penalty, and we will never see a long, beautiful pass in the NFL again. Any defender who sees the slightest chance of a 40-yard completion would be foolish to not simply tackle the receiver.

  29. First as a Lions fan I feel glad that the eye test for a catch will be more accurate. Secondly I agree with the targeting rule change! If an offensive player is lit up by an illegal hit… review it and eject them! That very hit may have knocked a teams player out of the game/multiple games or even the remainder of the season! So no I don’t buy that it’s unfair!

    The rule I would also like to see addressed is the 10 second run off. The nature of the rule is to prevent cheaters from getting free time outs! Change the rule to if the Refree initiated the review that there is no run off of time. So a team may have scored with 9 seconds left, they review it and call it short by 1” why should the game be over if they have no time outs? Set the ball and start the clock on the whistle and if the team can break the huddle and get a play off then they do! That’s a joke of a rule application! I will say we lost a game this year because of the rule, it was the proper application of this rules, but the nature of the rule is to prevent cheating, not steal the end of a game.

  30. VikingJim is right. The NFL rule re: what-is-a-catch started going off the rails when the additional requirement of making a “football move” was added to the original long-standing rule. Eliminate all this post-modern fluff and go back to the start.

  31. rob471773 says:

    February 27, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    Don’t touch it! the rule is fine as is.

    If you make a catch while going to the ground, you should be required to hold onto the ball after hitting the ground. How is this unfair or unclear at all.

    Jesse James – clearly incomplete since he NEVER’t established possession, hit the ground and lost control.

    Zach Ertz – clearly complete/TD since he clearly established possession (3 steps) and then crossed the plain of the endzone WITH POSSESSION. Anything that happened after didn’t matter.
    _________________________________________________________________________________

    So 3 steps and a complete loss of possession makes you more of a runner than 2 steps, a knee, a lunge up field, and an elbow before the ball bobbled in the hand while in the endzone. Gotcha… these refs will surely call that the same at least 50% of the time. haha

  32. Follow the ‘Gene Stiritor’ rule – ‘ball rotation in a receiver’s arm is not loss of control.’ ( different than bobbling the ball )
    When a receiver switches a ball from one arm to the other and the ball rotates , it is not loss of position* > Clement’s catch .

    *possession

  33. bwoo72 says:
    February 27, 2018 at 2:02 pm
    Good. It’s about time.

    Let’s go back to the days of “the ground can’t cause a fumble”
    …………………………………………………..
    Must complete stating the ‘full’ rule > ” after contact “

  34. The 15-yard PI rule is a good idea. if the foul is ruled intentional to prevent a TD, it’s a spot foul.

    We need less emphasis on downfield contact. let the players play.

  35. This is getting overly complicated. The only change that needs to be made to rule is the controversial one. When if the receiver maintains control when the ball breaks the plane of the goal line or prior to going out of bounds, it’s a TD. Just like a runner. Any catches in the field of play, the current rule works just fine.

  36. So, now when a receiver catches a ball and then loses control when they hit the ground it will be a fumble. New set of problems coming up.

  37. “Jesse James – clearly incomplete since he NEVER’t established possession, hit the ground and lost control.”

    You conflating possession and a catch. He had possession of the ball, brought it into his body and then extended it over the goal line. There is no way you can logically argue that he didn’t possess the ball.
    What the NFL says is that it’s not a catch, since he didn’t survive the ground. They’ve created this silly checklist of things that much be accomplished for it to be a catch – all that can essentially happen after the receiver possesses the ball. If you base possession on clear control with one or two hands, then you simplify the process and can evaluate the outcome of the play, based on what happens after. Cross the goal line – TD. One foot in bounds – out of bounds. Lose control hitting the ground with no other contact from an opposing player – fumble. It’s very simple that way. If you can determine possession, nothing else matters – incomplete.

  38. I always thought the ground couldn’t cause a fumble. If that’s true for runners, shouldn’t it be true for pass receivers as well?

  39. “None of these “surviving the ground” rules even go into effect IF you’ve already established possession. You need rules like “surviving the ground” in the cases where a guy HAS NOT established possession and make a catch while going to the ground, or makes a mid air catch.”
    —–
    Again there is a conflation of catch and possession. Established possession is the ball, in control of one or two hands. That should be a stand alone determination. If you can’t determine that he had control of the ball, then it’s not a catch. All the other “survive the ground”, “2 feet in bounds”, “football move” are there to determine if it’s a catch. Which is just unnecessary. A catch should be possession and anything after can determine the outcome of the play. Then and only then are you making it black and white. A player can possess the ball in mid air, bringing it into their body and lose it on contact with the ground – call it a fumble or down if he was touched.

  40. Yes, if a receiver catches a ball and then loses control when they hit the ground, it is a fumble. I have no problem with that. They need to hold on to the freaking football.

  41. Zach Ertz’ touchdown in Super Bowl wasn’t a catch. He only caught it at the 6 yard line and took 5 steps. He needs to catch it at the 40 and take 15 steps minimum. Just ask a Collinsworth.

  42. The idea that the ground cannot cause a fumble is a myth perpetuated by ignorant TV announcers. There is nothing in the rule book that ever said that. The ground can most definitely cause a fumble!

  43. Good move. The old rule was fine. Just needed replay. Now put the extra point back where it was. Kickers aren’t even players. They shouldn’t be deciding games on fluky missed XP’s.

  44. seahawkboymike says:
    February 27, 2018 at 2:49 pm

    The 15-yard PI rule is a good idea. if the foul is ruled intentional to prevent a TD, it’s a spot foul.

    ———-
    Sure, but then how do you definitively judge intent?

    See Rule, Tuck for what can happen if you try to solve THAT problem. 🙂

  45. Let’s try to really balance things. Since defensive holding is 5 yards and 1 first down, offensive holding should include loss of down. Offensive PI should be 15 yards and a loss of down. Rules are too heavily tilted to the offense….

  46. changing the defensive pass interference rules from a spot foul to a 15-yard penalty

    ///////////////////////

    Well that would eliminate the packer offensive schemes

  47. seahawkboymike says:
    February 27, 2018 at 2:49 pm
    The 15-yard PI rule is a good idea. if the foul is ruled intentional to prevent a TD, it’s a spot foul.

    We need less emphasis on downfield contact. let the players play.

    ———–

    So now you want the refs to decide what was “intentional”? Yeah….what can go wrong there….

    How about we just quit messing with the game and changing the rules every season because some butt-hurt GM or coach had a play not go his way?

  48. infectorman says:
    February 27, 2018 at 1:57 pm
    great.

    what about when the clearly bobble the ball after getting 2 feet down as they are running out of the endzone, and ultiatemly fail to show true control of the ball with 2 feet down INBOUNDS?

    kinda like, exactly like Corey Clement did in the SB to earn a GIFT TD from 345 Park Avenue?
    ————————————————————
    Consider it just a small payback for the 15 years of Patriots cheating and “gifts” from the NFL…….crybabies!!!

  49. So now passes that where incomplete in the field of play because the receiver didn’t “survive the ground” will be complete passes and a fumble? It might clarify the catches where a receiver loses the ball when he hits the ground out-of-bounds or past the plane of the goal line but there will be a lot of plays where the receiver catches it and fumbles in the field of play. Will they say the ground can’t cause a fumble? Now they will be reviewing plays to see if a receiver was down by contact before fumbling. I don’t see how this is going to clarify the catch rule. It just brings back all the situations the current rule was put in place to fix.

  50. Going to the ground isn’t the problem. The problem is refs need to be able to discern between a bobble and putting the ball away. Both will cause movement of the ball. They are easy to discern between (they look nothing alike) …and one is losing possession; the other is a controlled move to guard against losing the ball when hitting ground.

  51. Regarding 15yd max penalty for PI. In a PI play the defender has basically assumed the offender is going to complete the play if not for their interfering. If the interference happens 14 yards or less from the line of scrimmage, the offense gains from the penalty as they should. If the PI happens greater than 14 yards out then the offense is not compensated proportionately. So why not award an extra down i.e. 5 downs as compensation for the next series of plays until a first down is achieved by penalty (non PI) or by a successful play. Seeing as how PI will always result in a first down, successive PI penalties on a drive would never result in the offense getting more than the 5 downs.

  52. bwoo72 says:
    February 27, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    Good. It’s about time.

    Let’s go back to the days of “the ground can’t cause a fumble”

    *****************************************************************

    The Ground CAN and always COULD “cause a fumble.”
    It just is not a fumble IF the player is touched down or tackled before said contact with the ground.
    If he is however, say.. running along, stumbles without being touched, hits the ground and gives up the ball..
    Guess what. It’s called a “fumble”.

  53. Get rid of Automatic Review of scoring plays. That only works in the defense’s favor and slows the game. If a catch in the endzone is called a no-catch by refs on the field it is not automatically reviewed. Let such plays be challengeable like all others.

  54. @ rob471773 says:

    “Don’t touch it! the rule is fine as is.If you make a catch while going to the ground, you should be required to hold onto the ball after hitting the ground. How is this unfair or unclear at all.”

    It is unfair and unclear because referees have been very subjective on this rule. Dez caught it, took 2 steps, and held on. Although the ball moved slightly when he hit the ground, he never lost possession of the ball. Both Dez and Megatron caught the ball, took two steps to establish possession, and both were ruled incomplete due to the ground. So, if the ground cannot cause a fumble, WHY should the ground be able to cause an incomplete catch? It makes ZERO sense.

    OBVIOUSLY the rule needs to be revamped, otherwise why would Mara and the rest of the committee consider changing it? Take the “going to the ground” out of the equation UNLESS a player is going out of bounds, and that is where maintaining complete control of the ball through the entire catch makes sense. While in bounds, if the ground cannot cause a fumble, it shouldn’t be allowed to cause an incompletion. PERIOD.

  55. There’s nothing wrong with the catch rule, just it’s interpretation.
    The DPI rule change would be a disaster waiting to happen.
    Any rule about targeting had best have challenge on demand that doesn’t effect other challenges, likewise with DPI.

  56. commentawaitingdeletion says:
    February 27, 2018 at 6:02 pm
    There’s nothing wrong with the catch rule, just it’s interpretation.
    The DPI rule change would be a disaster waiting to happen.
    Any rule about targeting had best have challenge on demand that doesn’t effect other challenges, likewise with DPI.
    ~~~~~~~~~~
    Assuming it works like college…a judgment call of targeting is made on the field. Then, it is automatically reviewed via replay and, if confirmed (again a subjective judgment), the player is ejected. That essentially IS a challenge. If you are asking for a challenge to the replay ruling I must ask who would do it since the rulings are all made in NYC now?

  57. Two feet down and control of the ball. Two knees down. Two cheeks down. Two elbows down. You should not have to do anything else to catch a ball. Running with the ball is an event after the catch. So long as you define what part of the body must contact the ground, then the moment you hit the ground with that body part(s), you have a completed catch. And if you have the ball doing so in the endzone, it doesn’t matter what happens when you go out of bounds.

    Body part down – hold the ball – catch.

  58. The eye test is the worst idea of all time. If it looks like a catch, then fans of the other will complain just as much as they do now. That will never change. Leave DPI just as it is. Why do people want a game with less scoring? Do we really want to watch 9-3 games? I recall watching football in the 60’s. It wasn’t all that exciting. That and a whole boatload of bad calls. Far too many games won/lost where it was clear what happened.

  59. RogerGoodellGropedMe says:
    February 27, 2018 at 1:28 pm
    Pretty soon they’ll have trouble defining what a “kick” is….
    &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

    If they keep moving the goal posts closer together there will be no need. The League wants more scoring, but all moving the posts has done is caused more punts..
    I for one LIKE to see teams try long field goals!
    This is typical of the Leauge’s “READY-FIRE-AIM” policy!
    Widen them back out, if they are missed leave it at the spot of the snap NOT the point of kick…

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