What Exactly Is A Catch Anymore?

What Exactly Is A Catch Anymore?

By: James Jackson
January 11, 2018

In week 15 of the 2017 NFL regular season, the Pittsburgh Steelers went to war against their AFC division rivals the New England Patriots. It was a hard fought game throughout. The Patriots left Pittsburgh with the win and the lead in the conference standings, ultimately giving the Patriots home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Although in the eyes of many, the Steelers should have left that game with the victory and home field advantage. Steelers tight end Jesse James made what appeared to be a remarkable catch in the end zone with just 34 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. The catch was originally ruled a touchdown, however every scoring play after the two minute warning has to be reviewed. After further review the officials overturned their original ruling and declared the pass was incomplete.

Game official Tony Corrente explained the decision to overturn the touchdown.

“As he hit the ground, the ball began to roll and rotate and the ball hit the ground, and that’s the end of it at that point.”

Now fast forward to last weekends wildcard game with the Jaguars facing off against the Bills. Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey picked off Bills backup quarterback Nathan Peterman in what was almost an identical catch to Jesse James’. Just like James’ catch was reviewed as was Ramsey’s. However, after further review the officials ruled the interception a catch and the game was over. The Jaguars advanced to the divisional round while the Bills were eliminated from the playoffs. The question here is why was Jalen Ramsey’s interception ruled a catch while Jesse James’ was ruled incomplete? They were both identical to one another.

According to the NFL rule book, Rule 8 Section 1 Articles 3-4 “Completing A Catch” it clearly states a player must:

“Secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground”

Also as side note in the same section it states:

“If a player has control of the ball, a slight movement of the ball will not be considered a loss of possession. He must lose control of the ball in order to rule that there has been a loss of possession.” It goes on to say “If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any part of his body to the ground, it is not a catch.”

Just like Ramsey, Jesse James had his hand under the ball preventing it from touching the ground. The ball did move, however neither James or Ramsey lost possession of the ball. Two exactly the same plays with two totally different outcomes. You can’t go back and change the past but the NFL officials need to be on the same page as to what a catch is.


Brian Kunst
Bob Mack/Florida Times-Union