“Upon further review,” Lee Evans catch/non-catch at the end of the Ravens – Patriots game has become a hot topic today. No one thought it was a catch yesterday, but the discussion is heating up. Should the Ravens be in the Super Bowl? It comes down to Evans’s second foot. Or, should I say, it’s all about whether Evans’s second foot came down. Here’s my take on Sunday’s games, but I rely on the lawyerly Adrian the Canadian to sort this call out. Here’s his quick take (check out his second post for even more gory details):
THE LEE EVANS “CATCH”
One of the many hot topics in the wake of yesterday’s conference championship games is Lee Evans non-catch at the end of regulation in the Pats-Ravens game. Over on Slate, Josh Levin has a good analysis of the catch. Levin seems to think that a strict application of the NFL rule on touchdown catches suggests that Evans did make the catch. Here’s the language he looks at:
Item 3: End Zone Catches. If a player controls the ball while in the end zone, both feet, or any part of his body other than his hands, must be completely on the ground before losing control, or the pass is incomplete.
Levin is wrong due to the bolded text. Slow down the video yourself – Evans plainly does not have his second food completely on the ground before Moore breaks up the pass. Which is kind of unfortunate – before I gave the video a close look I was ready to argue that the pass was still incomplete even if Evans had gotten the second foot down. Is there any argument for Evans? Can Baltimore fans take some solace in the note below Item 3? Let’s see:
Note: In the field of play, if a catch of a forward pass has been completed, after which contact by a defender causes the ball to become loose before the runner is down by contact, it is a fumble, and the ball remains alive. In the end zone, the same action is a touchdown, since the receiver completed the catch beyond the goal line prior to the loss of possession, and the ball is dead when the catch is completed.
This looks kinds, sorta good for Evans except, as we saw, he never completed the catch. This note is designed to cover the situation where the player catches the ball and establishes himself as in control of the ball with both fee completely on the ground and then has the ball knocked out. Tough luck, I know. The last thing I wanted to see was another New England – New York Super Bowl.
Levin’s article does get at another interesting issue; the limitations of instant replay and the metaphysics of football. Defining a catch is hard stuff: when slowed down, some valid catches look questionable and some questionable catches look valid. This is true of a lot of plays. On close examination, what was once clear looks murky; this is a problem for the NFL and one that’s exacerbated by replay. I’ll come back to this problem in a subsequent post.
(Click here for part two from Adrian the Canadian if you still haven’t had enough rules for one day.)