NFL explains Vance McDonald touchdown catch

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The seven points didn’t make a difference in the game, but the video evidence coupled with the failure to have a full-blown replay review on a third-quarter touchdown reception by Steelers tight end Vance McDonald left many fans confused — and plenty of Panthers fans feeling like their team had been screwed.

McDonald seemed to make the catch at the back of the end zone, but closer inspection of his hands raises a question of whether he actually caught it and/or maintained control of it. The play apparently was reviewed for the purposes of determining whether a full-blown replay review would occur, with a decision being made to not stop the game and watch the play to determine whether clear and obvious evidence existed that he failed to make the catch.

After the fact, NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron tweeted an explanation of the decision: “Vance McDonald has two feet in bounds and never loses control of the football. The ball can move as long as the receiver never loses control. The ruling on the field is confirmed.”

The assertion that McDonald “never loses control of the football” overlooks the question of whether he ever actually secured control of the football. It appears that McDonald had the ball between his hands for an instant, before juggling the ball to a point where the ball was positioned between the inside of his left hand and the outside of his right hand, at which time the ball continued to move. While it never came loose, it looked like there was never clear control of the ball.

The rulebook requires the player to “secures control of the ball in his hands or arms”; in this case, control was secured if at all on one of McDonald’s hands. Regardless, it’s still not clear that he ever actually secured control.

That doesn’t mean the ruling on the field would have been overturned if subject to full-blown review. After last year’s misadventures with frame-by-frame review (which resulted in multiple touchdown receptions being overturned when they shouldn’t have been), Riveron seems to be fully committed to the clear-and-obvious, fifty-drunks-in-a-bar standard for overturning a ruling on the field. Which is fine, but the same standard applies in reverse when deciding whether to conduct a full-blown replay review.

In other words, unless it’s clear and obvious that the ruling on the field is correct, the video evidence should be carefully probed for proof that the ruling on the field was clearly and obviously incorrect.

That should have happened here. The outcome of the play probably wouldn’t have changed. The outcome of the game definitely would have changed. But to the extent that the league wants fans to have confidence in the replay process, it needs to be used consistently and correctly in all instances, even when it looks like a game is out of reach.

38 responses to “NFL explains Vance McDonald touchdown catch

  1. Almost exactly the same as one of the two wrongly allowed TDs given to Philly in the SB. A bobbled catch that Park Ave said was a catch even though it didn’t meet the criteria, and the other was the “Philly Special” for which (according to Mike Pereira) the Eagles lined up illegally. And the SB is supposed to have the best-of-the-best officiating. However, no one outside of NE seemed bothered at the time.

  2. As an Eagles fan fighting for a potential wild-card spot, I was rooting for the Steelers to beat the Panthers last night, but that was no catch.

  3. If I’m using the originally premise of replay, it was a touchdown.
    (fix clear and obvious errors)

    But replay has been over used to micro manage the game, so that’s why we don’t know what a catch is.

  4. The Steelers looked unbeatable last night. The visiting team almost always looks tired on these short weeks-no excuses. But it looked like Carolina was upset with the officiating.

    I think it was a poorly officiated game. On the play mentioned above the official clearly missed the push off on Mcdonald, the also gave him a first down on a play he was at least a yard short. There was also a third down play which the Steeler offensive line was 5 yards down field before the pass was thrown. Not that it would have changed the outcome, but carolina has shown the ability to come back. It isn’t an enjoyable product to watch on TV when one team seems to be getting jobbed.

  5. What is the big deal? When his knees hit down he secured the ball a second time. Reverse that call and it would have been first and goal at the 6 because of the penalty in a 45-14 game.

  6. Looks like by the time he had “control” of the ball, he was out of bounds.

    But in live action, I thought he caught it. So this is what fans wanted. He caught the ball. But what separates that from an NFL catch has been too muddy in the past. So this is the NFL’s attempt to appease fans, calling that a ‘catch’. It certainly wouldn’t have been just 1 year ago.

  7. Nothing they come up to try to justify their decisions surprises me. Especially after they changed the rules halfway through last year’s superb owl to try to influence the outcome.

  8. Never lost control of the ball? The ball was flopping around in his hands as hes rolling out of bounds behind the endzone. Im not a panthers fan but its STILL obvious this league doesnt know what a catch is. Which that wasnt.

  9. The rules a different with the Stealers, he made a “clear and obvious” push off before he bobbled the ball out of the endzone.

  10. WOW. Obviously NOT a catch…. what is going on. And if the coach throws a challenge flag there he gets penalized… This game, I fear, is past the point of no return. There are now three teams on the field (and back in NY) The home team, the away team and the Referee’s… all three can now affect the outcome of games. The fact that the NFL is saying, with hindsight, that this was a catch is very troubling and does not bode well for the league.

  11. Riveron just can’t seem to get out of his own way. One week he’s checking the blades of grass touching someones wrist, the next he’s ignoring an obvious review situation. And he’s getting it wrong every damn time.

  12. “After last year’s misadventures with frame-by-frame review (which resulted in multiple touchdowns being overturned when they shouldn’t have been)”.

    Why shouldn’t those touchdowns have been overturned? Replay exists, or should exist, to ensure that the correct result is achieved. If frame-by-frame reveals the correct result that should be the call. Any other standard defeats the purpose of replay.

  13. So under this interpretation of the rule, a player can catch a ball have 2 feet in bounds and be bobbling the ball all the way to the locker room as long as he eventually gets control?
    Well done NFL

  14. I didn’t think he ever bobbled the ball. Just because the back of one of his hands had the ball doesn’t mean he didn’t have control. That said, they still should have given it a full review, but not overturn it.

  15. Steelers fan here and I cannot understand how this is ruled a catch but the JJ TD against the Pats last year was not. This was clearly a bad call and the NFL just cannot get it right.

  16. It was a TD because he plays for the Steelers, and the Steelers get preferential officiating. At least this blown call didn’t have a significant outcome in the game… unlike two of their other non-losses this season.

  17. “If I’m using the original premise of replay, it was a touchdown. (fix clear and obvious errors)

    But replay has been over used to micro manage the game, so that’s why we don’t know what a catch is”.

    Incorrect on multiple levels. The receiver clearly and obviously did not have possession as he stepped out of bounds, so it was not a touchdown under any standard of review.

    Replay had, and has, nothing to do with some people not knowing what a catch is. Those people are too dumb to understand what constitutes a catch, either under the previous standard or the current year’s standard. That’s the sole reason for catch confusion.

  18. How did I know crybaby Patriots “fans” would be in here whining about two confirmed catches in the Super Bowl. LOL. World Champion Philadelphia Eagles.

  19. They just didn’t want more Steelers uproar like the James (non)catch. This is about as clear as day as you can get. The dude bobbled the ball and didn’t have control until he was out of bounds. Just as James going to the ground and not maintaining control of the ball as a non-runner. Clear rules that people whine about because it didn’t go their way. What’s so difficult to understand? CONTROL THE BALL.

  20. First people complain about the Dez catch or the Johnson catch, the NFL just decided that why make it subjective if it looks like a catch its a catch damn if u do damn if u dont. Besides Ben is on my fantasy so lol. The outcome wont have been in doubt since the Steelers called off the dogs anyway, they would have scored if it was ruled incomplete.

  21. How about this: McDonald doesn’t get a TD last night but Jesse James gets his rightful TD from last year’s Patriots game. Deal?

  22. Welcome to the NFL: Consistently inconsistent!

    Agree with some of you here…2 gifted touchdowns to the Eagles in the SB (one an illegal formation,the other a control issue), McDonald pushed off and only controlled the ball when he went out of bounds…So if that’s a catch then James’ catch against NE should have been a catch too!

  23. jstew0103 says:
    November 9, 2018 at 7:36 am
    Same thing happened twice to the patriots in the super bowl. Predetermined outcomes by the NFL are the new norm people.
    So, in the Patriots’ Super Bowl wins, they actually didn’t earn those, since they were all pre-determined.

    Or did the predetermination just coincidentally begin when the Patriots lost to the Eagles last year?

  24. Compared to last year’s New England Game Debacle on Jesse James ‘ non-catch (CATCH!!!)… he re-established enough control to gove Troy Aikamn goosebumps… live with it.

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