On Sunday the NFL once again incited anger in New York Jets fans when officials overturned another apparent TD that altered the final score.
One thing that keeps happening in the NFL is the debate on what is a catch. The inability for announcers, fans, players—everyone—to understand just what the rule is, reared its ugly head as the New York Jets took on the Carolina Panthers.
Earlier this season, officials ruled that Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins fumbled and lost control of the football as he was attempting to score against the New England Patriots. The play came at a time when the Jets desperately needed a touchdown to get back into the game.
This wasn’t just any other opponent or any other game either. The Jets were coming off three straight wins and with a record of 3-2, they were playing for first place. Earlier in the game, the Jets took a 14-0 lead and excited their home fans with visions of defeating the hated Patriots.
The Patriots then scored the next 24 points to take a 10-point lead. Josh McCown led the New York Jets down the field and it looked like he had connected with Seferian-Jenkins on a four-yard TD pass to cut the Patriots lead to 24-20. The officials on the field originally called the play a touchdown.
However, officials overturned the call and it wasn’t just an incomplete pass or that Jenkins was ruled down at the one-yard line where the Jets would get another chance to score a TD. The officials ruled that Jenkins lost control and fumbled the ball out of the end zone, giving the Patriots the ball at their 20.
The amazing thing about that play was that Jenkins never lost control of the ball and the ball never fell out of his hands and touched the ground. While he did temporarily lose control of the ball, it never left his arms and he looked to have regained full control before he crossed the goal line. Confusing? You bet.
Sunday, another play involving Seferian-Jenkins occurred when the Jets were attempting to overcome an 18-17 deficit. On second and goal, McCown lofted a pass to Jenkins in the corner of the end zone which he caught and fell out of bounds. Once again the ball never hit the ground and stayed in his arms. However, there was very slight movement of the ball as he fell out of bounds.
Most people with eyesight that is not absolutely perfect would assume that the ruling on the field would stand, after all, the officials originally called the play a touchdown. However, officials overturned the call again, stating that Seferian-Jenkins didn’t fully control the ball when he fell out of bounds.
When asked about the play afterward, Seferian-Jenkins sounded just as confused as New York Jets fans that watched both replays and could only scream in agony.
“I thought it was a touchdown when I originally made that play,” Seferian-Jenkins told Daniel Popper of the New York Daily News. “They didn’t think it was a touchdown. I agree with that … It’s what they called.”
For fans watching the games, trying to understand just what a catch is can be an exercise in futility. For Jets fans, who already feel like they always get shafted on calls, both plays had a huge effect on what the final score of the game was. It is easy to feel as if there is some kind of conspiracy against a team when fans are always looking for the replay officials before getting to celebrate a touchdown.
While most NFL experts didn’t give the Jets much of a chance to make the playoffs this season, both of these calls could have turned the 4-7 Jets into the 6-5 Jets.
Here is how the NFL defines a catch
The rule itself can be very confusing once you add in “the receiver must maintain control of the football long enough to become a runner.”
In Seferian-Jenkins’ case, he never lost control of the ball and if it weren’t for the fact that the end of the play was a touchdown, it is hard to say that he wasn’t a runner since he scored on both plays.
Whatever the rules currently are, the NFL needs to address this in the offseason and make some changes. While it is one thing to alter what the outcome of the New York Jets game would be, it is another thing entirely if a playoff game (much like the Packers-Cowboys playoff game when Dez Bryant’s catch was overturned) comes down to such confusion.