The famous Catch Rule is at it again, taking away yet another brilliant catch due to a technicality that defies all common sense. In a game versus the Detroit Lions, Michael Crabtree of the Oakland Raiders caught a ball, started running, took 3 more steps, then dropped it. It wasn’t ruled a catch. Granted, this wasn’t the most game of changing plays to be taken away, but it is an excellent catch that was robbed. It shows once again why this Catch Rule is causing much more confusion and frustration than anything else.
The NFL defines a catch in a series of technical procedures. A receiver must clearly become a runner in order to complete a catch. This is done by catching the ball and touching both feet down and then maintaining control to have the ball long enough to clearly become a runner. If a receiver falls to the ground in an attempt to make a catch then he must maintain control of the ball after contacting the ground. If he loses control of the ball after contacting the ground and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. The ability of a player to protect himself from impending contact has become the rule for deciding if a catch is maintained or not…but not the actual catch itself. This rule has taken away some amazing plays over the years, plays that would have changed the outcome of the game. Reaching the ball out before becoming a runner has been shown as not enough to trump the requirement to hold onto the ball when you land. When you are attempting to complete a catch, you must put the ball away or protect the ball so it does not come loose.
Even by this long, complicated, stupid definition, it looks like the refs made the wrong call. Crabtree took action as a runner and catches the ball while getting both of his feet down and then begins taking another step to get his foot down out of bounds before he’s touched.
This rule has brought about more frustration than any other rule in football. The league has changed the rule already from a football move to an active runner but its only made things worse. Players, coaches, and fans are begging the NFL to clearly define a catch and use common sense.