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Lions' loss brings another look at an NFL rule

The call wasn't as critical as the tuck rule, coming as it did in the first game of the season rather than the playoffs, but what happened to the Lions on Sunday no doubt will bring another look at the possession rule from the NFL Competition Committee.

"That's a catch," Tony Dungy said Sunday night on NBC of a Shaun-Hill-to-Calvin-Johnson touchdown pass that would have averted the Lions' 19-14 loss to the Bears.. Dungy compared the play to Lance Moore's catch of a two-point conversation pass from Drew Brees in the Super Bowl and asked how one can be a catch and the other an incompletion.

Lions Coach Jim Schwartz wasn't about to pin the blame on officials; as Herman Edwards pointed out, the fault lies with the rule, not with the interpretation. "The time I stand up here blaming the officials for a loss is the time I don't have to do this anymore," Schwartz said.

"I didn't know the rule," former Bears coach Mike Ditka said on ESPN's "Mike and Mike" show. "I thought that once you broke the plane of the goal with possession of the ball, it was a touchdown. ... I think one thing the kid [Calvin Johnson] could have learned is he could have come down with two hands on the ball."

Here's the text of the rule; judge for yourself:

N.F.L. Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1: Going to the ground. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King writes: I think we'd all agree the Competition Committee needs to tweak this rule because no one can watch that replay and say Johnson's possession is debatable or marginal.

David Cornwell, an Atlanta sports lawyer who has represented players, worked for the NFL and was a candidate for executive director of the NFLPA after the death of Gene Upshaw, tweets: Players held to higher standard. Player makes a mistake and Commissioner fines him. Officials make a blatant mistake - its football.

Wide receiver Bryant Johnson, like Schwartz and the rest of the Lions, worked his way through the play and the loss.

SMH at the end of our gameless than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

Proverbs 14:29 "He who is slow to anger, has great understanding". Gotta let what happened yesterday go, learn from it, and move on. #newdayless than a minute ago via Twittelator

By Cindy Boren  |  September 13, 2010; 7:55 AM ET
Categories:  NFL  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: NFL Week 1: Lions loss hinges on rule interpretation
Next: Leonard Weaver out for season with 'very severe' ACL tear


Almost no one (except Mitch Albom, who you link to) reported that the ref ON TOP OF THE PLAY SIGNALLED TD. That seems to be an important fact people are overlooking.


Posted by: StikeDC1 | September 13, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: tysonsara1 | September 13, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

There is nothing wrong with the rule. The officals blew it on the field then compounded it by screwing up the replay.

Even by the rule cited in this article, Johnson caught the ball. His feet and one butt cheek hit the ground and he had full control of the ball (albeit w/ one hand). He never lost control of the ball once he got his two hands on it. A ball being grasped with one hand like that by a 6"5" world class athlete can (and usually is) under their control.

That call was beyond absurd.

Posted by: nyfgfan | September 13, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Completely micromanaged league that is quickly becoming stale. The officials in the last several years have been nothing short of the Keystone Cops. Ridiculous. Absolutely Ridiculous

Posted by: gcottrill | September 13, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

i'm sorry when are players going to accept responsibility and play the game are taught to catch the ball and come down with two hands...who ever came up with the idea to stretch across the goal line and not protect the ball shud be held accountable...perhaps if players would pay more attention to completing the play and not their celebration dance you would see this become a non factor...because it was at the end of the game or perhaps just before halftime is why it gets covered as for tony dungy ...get over won one championship in 10years ....arent you getting full of yourself yet...

Posted by: wmnatzakanian | September 13, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Bad Call by the ref. Dude caught the ball, fell to the ground with possession not to mention both feet were down, he landed on his rear, and knee was down and then on the way up from the ground let the ball go. Reverse the call, TOUCHDOWN Detroit wins.

Posted by: common2 | September 13, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse


Totally agree. It's not the rule, it was the call. It's B.S. that everyone is scapegoating the rule when it was blatantly misinterpreted. He had possesion. Never lost it.


I dont know where to start. You're an idiot on so many levels. Spending time and energy refuting you would be a waste.

Posted by: bigtriumverate | September 13, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Whats with Detroit teams getting jobbed by refs/umps and mayors!!

This is not even debatable. The ref/nfl should apologize like the baseball ump did on that closer call on the no-hitter.

I have seen plenty of TDs when a receiver catches a ball in a dive, and slam the ball over the line (endzone) and the ball flies off from the impact. This is called a TD...because it crossed the plane of the line with the ball in the mitt of the receiver. Case is normally closed with none of the mumbo jumbo of that rule invoked.

The Lions were robbed.... and so was I in my pool. Consequences of that call no doubt was much more costly ($$) for others I am sure.

Posted by: mendonsa | September 13, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

In a play earlier within the forth quarter Johnson was interfered with on a pass play of which an inception for the Chicago defensive end was allowed to take presence, a play of which Johnson was obviously interfered with and of which he threw a fit over.
None the less this reader could see the officials called a very poor game in Chicago favoring the Bears of which obviously were home team.
This obvious bad call by the officials on Johnson's what was to be a possible game winning touchdown does not surprise this 61 year old Lions fan, and goes to add more proof to the story of why the Detroit Lions never seem to win and have become noted perennial losers.
That call and ruling is obviously wrong. For it shows the paying ticket holder and television viewing football fans there is a fix in place to allow the NFL officials to control the outcome of a game....
A very BAD ruling for sure............

Posted by: jtynoble | September 13, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

What about the fact that he had both feet in the end zone with control of the ball AND when his knee hit, he still had control?

The rule shouldn't even apply here at all.

Touchdown all the way.

Posted by: jwash4472 | September 13, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Good catch - bad call!

Posted by: apspa1 | September 13, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

After reading the rule and watching the video and repeating ad nauseum, I think the refs blew it. When he touched the ground, he maintained possession of the ball. Then he rolled over and put the ball down. He had control of the ball and never lost it. He didn't bobble it. He didn't drop it. He never needed to regain control because he never lost control, all the way to the ground he had control. Only when he was getting up did he let go of the ball, and I probably would have as well. They blew it. They overthought it. They did not correctly apply the rule.

Posted by: DCTom1 | September 13, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Horrible call, Lions were robbed. The ground cannot cause a fumble.

He caught, one hand secured the ball, he tapped feet, then fell on his backside, THEN the ball comes out after breaking the plane in the endzone, but ruled incomplete


Wes Welker was met at the GOAL LINE but credited with a touchdown even though the ball did not break the plane??

BS calls on both plays

Posted by: kahlua87 | September 13, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

It is
a) a terrible rule
b) inconsistently enforced

Touchdown Detroit.

Posted by: drischord | September 13, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Coaches need to fine players who celebrate with the ball. It was a TD but he was hot dogging with the ball like D. Hall did last night against the Cowboys. If Hall had dropped the ball before crossing the goal line I would have considered cutting him. These guys are ridiculous and getting worse all the time. Remember the player who spiked the ball before he crossed the goal line? The classic way to score is hold tightly onto the ball and the hand it to the refs.

Posted by: chopin224 | September 13, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

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