John Harbaugh explains decision to throw key challenge flag

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The decision to turn an incompletion into an interception created plenty of confusion and consternation in Indianapolis on Sunday, with the man who threw the pass proclaiming that “[n]obody that’s played any amount of football or been around the game watched that and thought it was a catch, including the guy that dropped it.”

That guy’s head coach thought it was a catch, and that’s all that mattered, when it came to initiating the review process.

“It felt like it was incomplete,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh told PFT after Baltimore’s 24-10 win over the Colts, “but then when you looked at it, they put it up on the screen there, and I could see it. [Cornerback Marcus Peters] had possession and then he took two steps clearly and then he had the third step down. . . . At worst, the third step is a football act. By rule, that’s a catch. I think they went and looked at it and . . . it was what it was. It was a catch.”

Harbaugh, and ultimately NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron, got it right. The league’s latest effort to redefine a catch (and also an interception) attempted to craft an objective standard to match the subjective, know-it-when-you-see-it gut feeling as to whether the ball was caught. On Sunday, Peters had the ball in his hands long enough to take three steps.

Yes, he was going backward and falling down as he did it. Sure, at fell speed it didn’t look like a catch. But if the objective standard is satisfied (and it is) by possession and three steps, Peters caught it.

The video evidence on that point was clear and obvious, even if it didn’t mesh with visceral sense of what is and isn’t a reception. Perhaps in some situations the current rule makes things that didn’t look like a catch into a catch. Regardless, the current rule creates a formula that makes it easier to make plays that look like catches into catches by providing a standard rooted in the objective and indisputable question of whether the player had possession, and whether he took three steps or, per the rule, tucked the ball away, extended it forward, turned upfield, or avoided or warded off an opponent.

That could make some things that don’t look like catches into catches. But it ensures that everything that looks like a catch will be a catch.

Which makes the current catch rule the best one the league has had in a very long time.

20 responses to “John Harbaugh explains decision to throw key challenge flag

  1. For 1 – if they ruled it a catch it should have been ruled a fumble. Since it was dropped before he hit the ground.

    And 2 – while awkward, he had control of the ball (not moving) and 3 feet down. That is the definition of a catch.

    I am not sure what the problem is? Clear pick.

  2. In real-time perception it’s blatantly incomplete. Slowed down frame by frame it’s clearly an interception. Crazy. I’m not sure how anyone could say it wasn’t an interception when the guy took at least three steps with the ball firmly in his grasp

  3. Aa a Ravens fan I can’t complain but if the rule says 3 steps whatever is a catch then it’s a catch. Aa an objective fan it was not. Go figure

  4. Coach Whinebaugh had the refs placate him again just to shut him up. Can you imagine being the ref assigned to his sideline? The constant smugness mixed with crying must get old 2 min into the game.

  5. It just looked to me like he never really had control of the ball while taking those steps. But I can also see it the other way. Oh well, not the worst overturned call on replay I’ve ever seen.

  6. “For 1 – if they ruled it a catch it should have been ruled a fumble. Since it was dropped before he hit the ground.”
    ___________

    It was ruled a fumble, with a clear recovery by the Ravens.

  7. troy43mvp says:
    November 9, 2020 at 11:27 am
    Replay should not be allowed to watch in slow motion. It takes on a different visual context.
    —–
    I agree, other than line to gain(touchdown, firstdown), slow motion should not be allowed in replay. If you have to use slow motion, then its not obvious.

  8. kenmasters34 says:
    November 9, 2020 at 11:36 am
    troy43mvp says:
    November 9, 2020 at 11:27 am
    Replay should not be allowed to watch in slow motion. It takes on a different visual context.
    —–
    I agree, other than line to gain(touchdown, firstdown), slow motion should not be allowed in replay. If you have to use slow motion, then its not obvious.

    How many times has slow motion been used to show that a player did or did not fumble or a ball hit/did not hit the ground. With slow motion they are getting more right than if they didn’t have it.

  9. kenmasters34 says:
    November 9, 2020 at 11:36 am
    troy43mvp says:
    November 9, 2020 at 11:27 am
    Replay should not be allowed to watch in slow motion. It takes on a different visual context.
    —–
    I agree, other than line to gain(touchdown, firstdown), slow motion should not be allowed in replay. If you have to use slow motion, then its not obvious.
    ____________

    Furthermore, they should have a finite amount of time to make a decision. If its longer than “x” amount of reasonable time, its not obvious and thus the ruling on the field should stand

  10. I guess that was my way of thinking on it. If it’s not obvious in real time in determining whether it’s a catch or not you should go by a real speed replay.

  11. They knew damn well that wasn’t a catch. They just didn’t want to admit they were wrong once the referee made the decision to overturn it. Even Peters himself laughed about it.

  12. Going backward is different than going forward – for example, a WR toe tap on the sideline going forward results in a completion, but going backward a toe tap with a heel coming down on the sideline results in an incompletion. Three out-of-control backward steps, caused by momentum and with the third coming as the player falls to the ground should not constitute a “football move”.

  13. Harbaugh is just upset because he realizes that his team will go one-and-done again this year in the postseason

  14. The catch rule before was also objective. You had to control the ball through the catch, even as you went to the ground. The problem with this is it made plays that looked like catches into drops (aka Calvin Johnson & Dez Bryant plays)

  15. “if they ruled it a catch it should have been ruled a fumble”

    They did rule it a fumble. In the same breath, the referee said it was a catch, then a fumble, and then recovered by a Raven’s player standing next to Peters. And as a result of that fumble, the referee said it was the Raven’s ball.

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