Getting your Rulebook Wednesday segment a day early because this couldn’t wait! Last night’s MNF finish was incredible, as you can see above. Cutting straight to the chase. First we’ll look at the catch itself and why it was the correct call.
1: You can make a one handed catch as a receiver. Tate has control because you CAN make a 1 handed catch. Not only that but Tate initially gets 2 hands on the football. Regardless, Tate’s left arm is between the ball and the defender and his hands contact the ball at the same instant as Jennings, so he has as much control with either hand as Jennings has with 2, as long as he stays in contact with the ball. It’s clear that he does.
2: Since you have to maintain control through the process of falling to the ground, as long as Tate never loses his possession with his first hand, he CANNOT, not have possession. This means the defender can never out-possess him, regardless of how many hands he has on the ball.
3: They both role over and Tate comes out of the pile with the football, confirming he never loses possession. This makes the call absolutely correct, from the standpoint of the catch, and honestly I think the regular officials come out with the same ruling.
Ok, so I think it’s clear that simultaneous possession occurs, making the CALL correct, but how did we get there? Let’s now look at why the PLAY was called incorrectly.
Ah, plain as replay-day, Golden Tate blatantly shoves a defender in the back to gain position. Clearly, he is trying to just make a play, but regardless a penalty flag HAS to come out, right? Everybody is up in arms about this, but there is a simple explanation as to why this call was missed. The problem is that NEITHER official saw the push-off because of their positioning. It’s clear in the replay that the Back Judge (that’s him in the image) is expecting the ball to go to Seattle’s right side with the tall receivers, because he is on the other side of the field sprinting into the play once the ball is thrown. Because he is sprinting into a massive pile of bodies (by football standards), there is no possible way he sees what happens. In fact it takes him a few seconds to respond at all to the outcome of the play, because he didn’t see any of it.
Meanwhile the Side Judge doesn’t see it because the defender BLOCKS HIS VIEW of Tate’s hands. This was a classic case of poor positioning by the official, not poor officiating, costing Green Bay the game. In basketball we’re taught to get to a position to see “between players”, the same rule applies in football. Side Judge was not deep enough to start the play so he ended up not seeing the push.
Let the controversy wage on! NFL replacement referees are on the hot seat, however you slice it.