Dean Blandino: Still No Catch, Dez

NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino was in Dallas for the league's annual Officiating Clinic and underscored the cold truth from that fateful day at Lambeau Field in January 2015.

Hey, Dean, after the NFL "clarified to provide a better understanding of the [catch] rule," did receiver Dez Bryant complete the catch on fourth-and-2 in the 2015 NFC divisional playoffs at Green Bay?

 

"Still not a catch," Blandino restated Friday at the league's officials symposium.

 

"Control, plus two feet, plus time," Blandino explained on what constitutes a catch. "Where we've gotten to is that everybody tends to agree what control and two feet look like, but it's that time element that tends to be the debatable subject. It is subjective, but what the time element means is having the ball long enough after the second foot is down to become a runner."

 

On Thursday, NFL Operations elaborated on what is a catch with a lengthy explanation:

 

In order to complete a catch, a receiver must clearly become a runner. He does that by gaining control of the ball, touching both feet down and then, after the second foot is down, having the ball long enough to clearly become a runner, which is defined as the ability to ward off or protect himself from impending contact. If, before becoming a runner, a receiver falls to the ground in an attempt to make a catch, 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. Reaching the ball out before becoming a runner will not 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.

 

Said Blandino: "So control, plus two feet, plus time. If you don't have those elements before you go to the ground, then the standard becomes hold onto it when you land. And if [it doesn't] survive the ground, then it's an incomplete pass. That's the rule in a nutshell."

 

Not to sound like a non-linear being from a science fiction story, but what is time, Dean?

 

"What that time element allows the on-field officials to do is to consistently rule the bang-bang play incomplete," Blandino said. "And that's important to us because the rules are written for on-field officials making decisions in real time seeing something once."

 

The rules clarification came about thanks to the consultation of a blue-ribbon committee comprised of Randy Moss, Cris Carter, Fred Biletnikoff, Tim Brown, Steve Largent,and Chad Lewis earlier in January. According to Blandino, the committee watched over 30 or 40 catch attempts, one of them being Bryant's play from the 2015 playoffs, and consensus-built on how the rule could be made cogent.

 

Of course, nothing will ever heal the wounds for Cowboys fans that the Bryant non-catch overturn caused.

 

"There are always going to be those plays that are subject to debate," said Blandino.

 

With 4:42 left in the fourth quarter down 26-21 on fourth down, quarterback Tony Romo heaved up a go-route to Bryant singled up on Packers cornerback Sam Shields. Head linesman Dana McKenzie ruled the play a completed catch. However, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, who had not won a challenge all season, threw his red flag to send referee Gene Steratore under the hood and in communication with NFL replay command in New York. Conferring with Blandino, Steratore came away overturning Bryant's catch and awarding possession to Green Bay. The Packers offense ran down the clock and packed their bags for Seattle to play in the NFC Championship Game.

 

"As far as we're concerned, the rule was applied the right way," said Blandino.

 


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