Chicago Sun-Times

Rule on Calvin Johnson play was discussed "extensively" in offseason

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Even after an exciting opening NFL Sunday, the ruling of Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson's end zone play is one of the hot-button topics.

To that end, I contacted NFL spokesman Greg Aiello to see if the league would possibly change the rule during the season or next offseason.

Aiello's response indicates there's no change in the offing.

"The Competition Committee discussed the rule extensively this past offseason," Aiello said, "and decided no change was warranted."

I'm sure the play is etched into everyone's mind: Johnson leapt high and plucked a pass from Shaun Hill over cornerback Zackary Bowman. He landed, with the front of his body facing the middle of the field, took two steps and fell to the turf near the back of the end zone. The problem, according to NFL rules, is that Johnson didn't fully control the ball since he had it with one hand and it popped out when it struck the ground.

Bears coach Lovie Smith and quarterback Jay Cutler suggested it was an easy call for the officials.

"I saw it exactly the way he did," Smith said of referee Gene Steratore. "Didn't really think they had to look at the replay for it."

Cutler, meanwhile, said officials highlighted that rule when they visited the Bears during training camp in Bourbonnais.

"Sorry for Calvin, good for us," Cutler said.

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26 Comments

Apparently a football coach and quarterback are delusional when watching a touchdown pass caught and renege via officiating BS. I can take the fact we lost then someone take the win from the other team and state "Here Bears, you win!" I interpret home field advantage, but that was not the case on Sunday.

Calvin Johnson caught the ball with one hand. I would like someone to keep telling me he didn't have control all while taking several steps and not fumbling the football in the process and simply laying the ball on the ground. If he didn't have control the ball would have bounced and roll away..

I wondered why I had an apathetic attitude towards pre-season. Now I know!! The Bears are horrible!

Its been said before, if you go to the ground on a catch, you have to stand up with the ball. This is nothing new, the Bears have been screwed by it before, everyone has been. The players know the rule by now. I don't feel sorry for Calvin for forgetting the rule but I am upset that we needed a bad rule to win. If we can limit the turnovers and the moments when Lovie has to make tough decisions or challenges, we should be alright. Am I the only one who is amazed he didn't challenge at least one of the fumbles? He always does no matter how obvious it is.

A horrible horrible call. Cutler and Lovie Smith would be livid if a call like that would have gone against them. Jim Schwartz is a classy guy to not complain about that call. 99% of football fans, even most of us Bears fans, know that it should have been ruled a touchdown. The NFL owes the Lions an apology.

I'm a Bear fan but I feel that Detroit won the game and the catch
was a touchdown.

The rule doesn't apply. The process was complete. This was an absolute NFL scandal. The ruling on the field was a td. They mysteriously changed their call after a talk from the NFL commissioner. Calvin was getting up.

I'm starting to think that no one even looked at this play. It is clearly incomplete. He didn't set the ball down, the ground knocked it out of his hand. You can tell by how he is grasping that he didn't mean to put the ball down.

The game has horrible all around. But that call was BS. He caught the ball with two hands, came down with both feet and two hands on the ball. Then while falling made a football move or the "second act" and transfered the ball to one hand. Got a knee and butt down thrn made a third act by rolling. Not to mention the hand that didn't have the ball went out of bounds before "the ball came out"

According to the rules, that was a good call. While Johnson had the ball in possession, he failed to pull it in and dislodged when the ball hit the ground. Everyone wants to blame the refs and rules, but why is no one faulting Johnson? It wasn't some long forgotten obscure rule- the rule had been reviewed and emphasized this off season. Had he not been concerned with celebrating and secured the ball, it would be a non-issue today.

It was a TD and the Bears lost and everyone knows that period

The NFL should give the game to the Lions period

I think we all know that SHOULD have been a TD. HOwever, it was NOT a blown call by the Refs. They simply enforced a BS NFL rule about catches in the end zone that has plagued us for years.

The same thing happened to Greg Jennings when we played GB at home last year. It is an awful rule, but as a receiver Calvin Johnson is supposed to know it. Referees come to each training camp to explain it. That's what our coaches and his coaches said about the play, and I'm sure he'd admit it himself.

One of two things happened at the end of that play

1) He dropped that ball at the end of the catch and the rule worked the way it was supposed to. (unlikely)

2) He got up to celebrate and made the mental error of releasing the football in the process. Like DeSean Jackson dropping the ball at the 1 yard line last season, Calvin Johnson cost his team the game.

Someone made a good point about the "2nd act" move of rolling over and putting the ball down, but he caught the ball while falling, the momentum of his fall rolled him over, and he ended the rolling motion with the football hitting the ground which is probably why it squirted out.

I mean, why not just pull the ball into your arms and cradle it like you do for every other TD catch? Either because he didn't have complete control or didn't know the rule.

One fluid motion that should be called a catch but isn't according to the rule. One stupid move by an elite receiver who is paid millions to know better.

That is the rule and I've seen it applied before. Last season in the Raiders/Chargers opener, Louis Murphy caught a TD pass in the endzone, got both feet down, went to the ground, and then the ball popped out. Under review, it wasn't ruled a catch. I also saw it in last years' Bears/Packers game at Soldier Field where Tillman punched the ball out of the receiver's hands after he had caught the ball and touched both of his feet down.

The Bears didn't win by virtue of bad officiating, they won because Calvin Johnson is a moron. You catch the ball and hold on to it so there is no dispute that it is in fact a catch. Instead, Johnson channelled his inner DeSean Jackson and started foolishly celebrating midway through the play.

Also, did anyone else feel their stomach churn when the Lions, led by QB Shaun Hill marched, no, sprinted down the field at the end when they needed a score? The Bears went into this plain look Cover-2 and everytime I've seen the other teams offense initiate a comeback drive the Bears do this.

Gawd I hate you Lovie and your stupid scheme.

Walky you are the only one posted so far that gets it. It is a rule and the officials have a job to do.

Crappy call do you know what a second act in football is?

Act one: Calvin jumped in the air caught the ball with two hands, turning his body while stumbling put the ball in one hand and stabled himself with his other hand. While in the first act going to the ground Johnson puts both hands and the ball on the ground to soften his fall and as soon as the ball hits the ground it clearly pops out in a different direction.

Act two: After the ball slipping in a different direction he leans forward starts to extends his arms to get up.

Act three: Acting like a fool running around the field like a chicken with its head cut off.

Rules are rules but in my eyes it was a catch.

Brando, if you just caught what you thought would be the winning touchdown, you wouldn't celebrate? If not, what hospital do I send a get-well card to, as you must be comatose.

Actually Brando it was a bad call, not only has nfl network pointed it out but so has Jim Miller. Johnson was out. His downed hand was on the chalk so yes they blew the call.

The league mad the right call? They can't even define what the process is, where it begins or where it ends. If it doesn't happen in the end zone it is actually a catch.

As for second act Brando. If the jump is act one as you clain then the second act, is the three steps he took, the third act is the hop and twist, the 4th act is the him landing on his rear, the 5th act is his hand sliding out of bounds and the 6th act is him turning over to get up.

It is bad rule, a bad call and the league can't even define what process is. Heck Tommie Harris and Major Wright said it was a TD.

Hey enjoy the fake win, but just looking at the Bears after the game, they didn't seem to happy about it either.

Freaking unbelievable. The Lions should sue the NFL for causing them to lose. Plain and simple.

THAT IS THE WORST RULE I'VE EVER SEEN.

Sometimes I wish the NFL gave a rip about what really happens in games. When surveyed, 5000 out of 5000 said Calvin Johnson's catch was legit. But one idiot in the NFL headquarters ruins it.

Just BS. I'm watching British football from now on. At least their rules are NOT made by sissies.

This is hysterical. I probably would be pretty upset if I was a Lion fan, that is if I had not jumped off a bridge years ago. It cracks me up that all everyone can talk about is the rule when the receiver blew the play. Had he tucked the ball and rolled like any moron knows he should do we would not be talking now. The rule is written precisely so that officials do not have decide whether a ball is a catch with no guideline. Without this rule, a catch might be good one week and bad the next. I can't stand it when someone messes up and talking heads decide you need to change the rule. Tuck the darn ball! I have it! Give the receiver a glove to catch with!

NFL will make a change to this rule guaranteed! You can't have a running back break the plane with the ball and fumble into the end zone and it's called a touchdown and a completion in the end zone is call a no-catch? The Lovie Man got extremely lucky on Sunday!
Go Bears!

The guy who was the head of officiating(Mike Perrera) when this rule was instated said during the broadcast it doesn't matter how much of him touches or where it touches you gotta get up with the ball if you go to the ground. This is the guy who came up with the rule, it isn't jim miller's or tommie harris's rule so what they think is opinion. Also I think the Bears got screwed with this rule a couple years ago. I think it was a fake punt Maynard hit Adrian Peterson for what looked like a first down but as Peterson hit the ground a Packer dove on him and knocked the ball out...no catch. A defender was touching him with his back on the ground so hes down before the ball is out right? WRONG ball goes to the Pack. Also, why was Bowman left in single coverage on CJ? Even I knew they were throwing it to the endzone on that play, put some DBs back there

Everyone says that the rule "needs to be changed" and that the rule "will be changed". If everyone thinks the rule is so stupid give me an alternative to the rule???

The game is over and in the books as a Bears win.
There was nothing wrong with the rule. The only question is when a play is over. I receiver can make a catch then hit the ground with the ball coming out and it becomes a fumble or a deal ball reception.
In this case, Johnson clearly had possession and control for two steps plus full contact with the ground, then the ball came out by contact with the ground (can't cause a fumble).
Football (and every other sport) can only have credibility when they admit their mistakes, like the umpire earlier in the year admitting he blew a call and a no-hitter.
Until Roger Goodell & Company admit they blew it and stop looking for alibis, the NFL (the league itself) demonstrates it is not credible.

What ever happened to down by contact or the ground can't cause a fumble, or out of bounds?The Lions should have played better that's it plain and simple!!!!! I'm a Lions fan and the call hurt but not as much as the lack of offense. After Stafford got hurt the Lions went deep only 3 times with this rotten rule coming into play being one of them the other two being incomplete at the end off the game. The bottom line is Detroit keeps finding new and inventive ways to loose football games

Listen it was the correct call to a bad rule, but why isn't anyone talking about the bogus touchdown that the lions got from best. The ball clearly didn't break the plain of the end zone, but nobody is talking about that!

Lions fan who was sitting four rows from where that play took place! Bad rule, most likely properly called...Every Bear fan around me said that should have been a touchdown in any sane world! The rule sucks! Two steps (at least), butt on teh ground, hand on the ground but no TD. What if he laid on his back and slowly let his arms down, then releasing the ball? Is that still the "process"? I also wonder if they would have reversed the call if the original official's signaling of a TD had stood?

The "pass recetion process" rule of the NFL is inconsistent with the rule permitting a runner to just cross the plane of the end zone with the football for a TD and then drop the ball. Why should it be different for pass receivers than for runners in the endzone? A runner who loses the ball outside the endzone has fumbled but not if he reaches the endzone. A receiver is treated differently by this NFL rule. Consequences of this rule are the application and the incentive for defensive players regarding end zone behavior. Referees in applying this rule may be accused of home team favoritism and other charges. It introduces ambiguity when a receiver has catched the ball and shown control while hitting the ground. Once there, application of the rule requires keeping possession while on the ground. This incentivizes defensive player behavior that knocks the ball from the receiver's possession after reaching the ground, something that runners don't face once in the end zone. It is certainly possible that this "pass reception process" rule could promote the chance of injuries to receivers while they are in the endzone. So this NFL rule is inconsistent in its treatment of players in the endzone and may cause injuries to receivers in the future besides introducing ambiguity for referees to resolve with all the cynical suspicions about the league and the referees for their choices in applying the rule.

@Walky

The only problem with the rationale you are giving, and more specifically with ex head of officiating Mike Pereira stating it, is that there is no rule in the NFL 2010 rulebook that states a player has to have the ball in his hands when he gets up. The other problem is that Johnson was clearly no longer on the ground when he places his right hand (with the ball in it) on the ground.

Moreover, Pereira is using the Louis Murphy drop from last season as a comparison for the reason why the "Player Going to the Ground" (8.1.3.1) applies and states the the player must have "control & possession until he stops moving". There are multiple problems with this point as well in that a) this language does not show up in the official NFL rules either and b) the Murphy catch(and drop) was nothing like the Johnson catch in that he did not continue his movement by coming to his feet (and completing an unquestioned second act). Murphy caught the ball against his body in a fetal-like position and lost it as he bounced up off the ground, coming to a stop. That Pereira would try to use this comparison is bad enough, but then to embellish the actual rule book as he did with the "control and possession until he stops moving" phrase is truly ridiculous. He is basically trying to paint an apples to apples comparison between the two by doctoring the rulebooks.

15 yard Personal Foul for Unsportsmanlike Conduct.

And none of what Pereira has to say begins to address the fact that, once again, Johnson was already off the ground when the ball was released. For this and other reasons mentioned above, 8.1.3.1 clearly does not even apply to this play.

You can see the 2010 NFL rulebook at the link below:

http://forums.footballguys.com/forum/index.php?act=attach&type=post&id=2447

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This page contains a single entry by Sean Jensen published on September 13, 2010 9:51 AM.

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