Posted September 08, 2013

Calvin Johnson still doesn’t understand the Calvin Johnson rule, and he’s not alone

Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, NFC East, Uncategorized
Calvin Johnson is still quite confused about one of his non-touchdowns... (AP/Paul Sancya)

Calvin Johnson is still quite confused about one of his non-touchdowns… (AP/Paul Sancya)

With 6:19 left in the first quarter of the Detroit Lions’ 34-24 win over the Minnesota Vikings, it appeared that Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford hit receiver Calvin Johnson with a 20-yard touchdown pass. Johnson got two feet down and appeared to control the ball as it broke the plane of the goal line, but upon further review, it was determined that he did not maintain control all the way, and the catch was ruled incomplete.

Thus, Calvin Johnson fell victim to the “Calvin Johnson Rule,” so named after Johnson was denied a touchdown catch under similar circumstances in Detroit’s Week 1 loss to the Chicago Bears in 2010. The NFL’s Competition Committee talked about reviewing the rule the next offseason, but held fast.

“If you read the rule, it’s not a catch,” New York Giants president John Mara said in March, 2011.  “The reason it’s not a catch is you’ve got to control the ball when you hit the ground. It makes it easier to officiate. It’s a bright line that you can draw.”

...and the ruling on this Victor Cruz touchdown didn't help.

…and the ruling on this Victor Cruz touchdown didn’t help.

It may be a bright line to Mara, but it’s pretty blurry to the Lions. After the game, official John Parry tried to explain it to pool reporter Paula Pasche of the Oakland Press.

“A player that is going to the ground on his own, which Calvin was on that play, must possess and maintain the possession of the football through the entire act of the catch. The catch did not end in that scenario. When the ball hit the end zone, the ball moved. It rotated. So he didn’t maintain possession of the football.”

Parry said that the rule applied even though Johnson broke the plane.

“The ball moved without control. If he would have maintained control of the football throughout the entire process, it’s a touchdown. But when the ball hit in the end zone, the ball moved. He did not have complete control of the football, which is why it’s incomplete.”

Parry also said that Joique Bell’s second-quarter rushing touchdown, in which the ball popped loose after he broke the plane, was a different story.

“The ball had broken the plane under the control of the player and then the ball popped loose,” he said of the play that was originally ruled a fumble. That’s why that’s reversed to a touchdown. The ruling on the field was a fumble-change of possession. Automatically reviewed. Those plays are initiated automatically by the replay assistant.”

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz seemed to understand what the refs were thinking.

“If he wasn’t going to the ground as a part of the catch, that would have been the case,” Schwartz said, when asked if he thought that Johnson made a ‘football move.’ “If he would have been on his feet and reaching over and then it would have been a football move. But he was still going to the ground as a part of that catch. I mean, he’s a two-time loser on his own rule.”

Johnson, for his part, remained unconvinced.

“Yeah, they got me again,” he said. “I’m going to have about four different pictures in there [the rulebook]. I caught the ball, and my feet touched, and then I dove in. I mean, I don’t know.”

The Lions may have been even more confused when they watched Eli Manning’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz in the third quarter of Dallas’ 36-24 Sunday Night Football win over the New York Giants. It appeared that Cruz lost control of the ball at the end of the “process” (as the league likes to call it), but Cruz’s play was ruled a touchdown.

FOX Sports rules analyst Mike Pereira tried to explain the difference.

If Pereira thinks the rule is simple, he’s in a distinct minority.

29 comments
bambam824
bambam824

CJ's play could be called either way, it's a play call that was "left in the hands of the officials", unfortunately not CJ's.

JeanClaudeRobinson
JeanClaudeRobinson

in 10 years they will get rid of the rule, just like they did with the "Tuck rule". They know it's a crappy rule,like they knew the "Tuck rule" was but they don't want to admit it right away so they will wait a while then try to sweep it under the rug.

Jay Besch
Jay Besch

It's a dumb rule.  The problem is that they have different interpretations at different parts of the field.  Marquise Goodwin is coming down with the ball and doesn't complete the act of the catch, but it is ruled a fumble against the Patriots.  There is no way they would have considered the same play in the endzone a Touchdown.  The rule is arbitrary at best, and is so inconsistently applied - basically it is used to manipulate and uphold bad decisions on the field. 

beirutwedding
beirutwedding

It's so bizarre, because I swear I watch games now and you can't tell when a runner actually earned a touchdown and when he didn't. I'm not sure how they can state it so clearly when it obviously doesn't make much sense and when the rules on what a catch is CHANGE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD. The only thing more baffling than the rule itself is their obstinacy in defending it. 

BSL05
BSL05

Ah, so the ground CAN cause a fumble, er, I mean hinder the "process."

6marK6
6marK6

I consider the touchdown they took away from him in that infamous game the most preposterous call in the history of sports. It was a touchdown. 

ApolloOne
ApolloOne

"It moved." I guess this should be called the "George Costanza Rule".

Seriously, though. This rule contradicts everything we've known about catches since we were kids playing football in the front yard.

GeorgeBest7
GeorgeBest7

NFL = Fail.  Two different standards for scoring a touchdown.  Mike Pereira may be correct in his interpretation (even though the Cruz catch discredits it), however he didn't acknowledge the obvious - the rule defies logic & needs to be changed.  Mike Pereira adds little to the broadcast in his role as NFL Official Apologist.

flamiemcflamerpants
flamiemcflamerpants

The catch in 2010: 

Johnson beasts his Bears defender, catches the ball, palms it with ONE HAND, uses his other hand to brace the impact of his fall.  As he gets up, he takes the ball and uses it to help him get up, but as it is on the ground, he just pushes it away. It is ruled incomplete, seeing as he used it to help himself get up. Apparently, palming the ball with one hand doesn't constitute as control.


The catch this weekend:

Johnson beasts his Vikings defender, who thought he was the man and had an interception, lands, puts both feet firmly on the ground and lunges for the end zone.  Johnson, with ball firmly in hands, stretches to put the ball over the end zone line.  But as he hits the ground, the ball shifts a little. It is ruled incomplete.  Apparently, holding the ball with two hands and being able to control it over the line doesn't constitute as control.  

Nincompoops
Nincompoops

Pereira is a hack and an apologist for the officials.

I would love to have a sports show have a league official show us all the substantive difference between Cruz's catch and either of Johnson's non-catches. It can't be done with a straight face.

I hope the Lions and media press this issue until the league responds.

horsley1953
horsley1953

I gotta say, I don't grasp the rule either. If he caught the ball 2 inches outside of the endzone and ran through the goal line, it would be a touchdown as soon as he crossed the goal line regardless of anything else that happened after that. But he because he caught the ball inside the endzone and ran several steps with it before hitting the ground, it isn't a touchdown? Nothing can make that make sense.l 

DougBeers
DougBeers

The problem with the rule is simple:  It was quickly invented and implemented to remedy a specific play which should have been allowed, but wasn't.  The resultant 'Calvin Johnson rule' in it's current form, contradicts the rule on the plane of the goal loine, as well as the ground not being able to cause a fumble.  Those rules have differing applications yet are the same in spirit as it pertains to possession of the ball.  The play's over when the player breaks the plane of the goal line or is down by contact.  Possession should be either established or not, by then, and not determined by any activity after the fact.

Maximum11
Maximum11

Nonsense, in any other circumstance that was a touchdown the second the ball crossed the plane of the goal line, it's no different than if he spiked it. This wasn't a catch inside the goal area, he was reaching over the goal line from outside. And I'm a Bears fan who hopes old Megatron never scores another goal, but he was robbed (again - yea he was robbed against Chicago too).

parkbrav
parkbrav

I know it goes without saying sometimes, but IMO Calvin Johnson is the most dominant player in the league right now

David102
David102

No one can stop Calvin Johnson. Except the league office. 

If the NFL mouthpieces cannot articulate the rule without vague crutch words like "process," then their grasp is far shakier than any receiver's.

Jameson
Jameson

The rule is simple. If the player is a runner, all he has to do is break the plane, he already has possession. For a receiver to make a catch, he must maintain possession of the ball after hitting the ground. The ground can't cause a fumble but it can cause an incompletion. There. simple. Now whether all the calls are accurate, that's a different story. But the rule is simple, pass receivers must maintain possession of the ball at all times.

Joseph F
Joseph F

This rule is a joke.  He caught the ball and it broke the plane. "SIMPLE!". Even for Mike P

drewmiller3
drewmiller3

Why have a rule that doesn't capture the essence of what a "catch" is really all about.  In both these of these over-turned TDs, Calvin Johnson caught the damn ball.  Period.  He did things to the ball the showed control.  And while the rule committee is all about "bright line rules" its not a bright line if you can make a call and speak a bunch of gibberish in defense of the call.  Its like the NFL is trying to tell fans the sky is purple when we can all see its blue...

RipsNordic
RipsNordic

What a BS rule. If the player maintains possession of the ball while the ball breaks the plane, it shouldn't matter what happens after cause the points have been scored. F that.

one22653
one22653

I cannot, for the life of me, understand how Pereira can claim Cruz had completed the catch and became a runner before going to the ground. He was clearly going to the ground as he brought his feet down. Two feet on the ground constitutes possession whether the player is on the sideline or in the middle of the field...

baronlager
baronlager

Yea, I don't care who says what, there was no difference between CJ's catch and VC's catch.  Calvin actually got both feet down.  Victor did not, so how could he have established possession and, to quote Mike Pereira: "...had completed the catch and was a runner." 

21GB
21GB

Johnson did pull the ball in, the hit the ground, then decided after the catch to dive forward and reach out with the ball. So how is that different from the saints superbowl TD where the exact same thing happened except on the goalline (and not 4 yards deep). The NFL's response was 'a reach constintuted a football move'. Well no one watching would argue Calvin caught the ball and deliberately reached out with a controlled football. 

JesseMeehl
JesseMeehl

Good article. Can you take over for Mike Pereira?

Nincompoops
Nincompoops

I would like to elaborate on the facts of Calvin's 2010 catch.

1) Calvin jumped in the endzone to catch the pass.

2) he caught the ball with two hands

3) his feet came down

4) he jumped and was pushed by a defender

5) while jumping/ falling (again) he switched to one handed possession of the ball

6) his feet came down again (4 feet down now)

7) as he continued to fall his knee hit, his hip hit, and then his elbow hit the ground

8) as he gets up he uses the ball in his hand against the ground to stand up

None of that constitutes possession according to the league (and Periera)? But Cruz having to a second foot touchfeet down a millisecond prior to

jnadeau
jnadeau

It's about a football move.  Controlling the ball and extending the arms over the goal line is a football move.   Once he makes a football move it doesn't matter if he drops the ball when he falls.  Yes, it is simple.

meweaz
meweaz

Hey look, someone actually has a clue here! It's really not that hard to understand. And BTW people, this rule was in effect yrs before CJ did that in Chicago. Funny, I didn't see anyone up in arms when it happened to Bennett(?) Up in Detroit 2 yrs earlier.

Nincompoops
Nincompoops

Sorry. Stupid Ipad.

...But Cruz having a second foot touch the ground a millisecond prior to losing possession makes him a runner? That is a joke.