The key phrase in the NFL's statement on the controversial Golden Tate touchdown catch is this:
A player (or players) jumping in the air has not legally gained possession of the ball until he satisfies the elements of a catch listed here...
I completely understand the disbelief over the call as it does appear that M.D. Jennings 'had it' before Golden Tate, but in the strict interpretation of the rulebook, possession happens as two feet hit the ground. Therefore, 'simultaneous possession' must be ruled at the moment when players' feet hit the ground. It may defy logic - I described it last night to a friend as 'technically right, logically wrong,' particularly when you're arguing the idea of 'control,' but the NFL supports the call on the field after review. People will see this NFL release and maintain their viewpoints, I'd guess, but in my humble opinion, this was closer than the collective national conversation and outrage implies.
This .gif does a decent job of showing just how close it was, and keep in mind that Jennings was high in the air when he first appeared to 'have it' over Golden Tate. By the time both players hit the ground though, it was much, much closer to 'simultaneous'. The simultaneous catch rule, technically, implies a 'catch' is made, and is ruled at the point when an official catch can be determined. It was so close, in fact, that the full-time NFL Replay Official, Howard Slavin (not a scab ref, mind you), up in the booth, confirmed the call when the play was indeed reviewed during the ensuing chaos. He ruled that there was no conclusive evidence to determine that Jennings had official possession prior to Tate.
Now - you interpret it how you please. I certainly understand and respect the opinion of those that still believe this should have been called the other way (though the whining and petulant foot-stamping by the national media is already getting old). I fully acknowledge that it could have gone either way, and I probably wouldn't be losing sleep if it had been ruled an interception. It was very close, that's my opinion, and it was a difficult call to make in real time when the bullets are flying. It's just unfortunate for Seahawks' fans in particular that this call will remain the only storyline of a game that saw pretty amazing performances by the Seahawks' defense.
OFFICIAL NFL RELEASE:
In Monday's game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, Seattle faced a 4th-and-10 from the Green Bay 24 with eight seconds remaining in the game.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw a pass into the end zone. Several players, including Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate and Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings, jumped into the air in an attempt to catch the ball.
While the ball is in the air, Tate can be seen shoving Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields to the ground. This should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference, which would have ended the game. It was not called and is not reviewable in instant replay.
When the players hit the ground in the end zone, the officials determined that both Tate and Jennings had possession of the ball. Under the rule for simultaneous catch, the ball belongs to Tate, the offensive player. The result of the play was a touchdown.
Replay Official Howard Slavin stopped the game for an instant replay review. The aspects of the play that were reviewable included if the ball hit the ground and who had possession of the ball. In the end zone, a ruling of a simultaneous catch is reviewable. That is not the case in the field of play, only in the end zone.
Referee Wayne Elliott determined that no indisputable visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, and as a result, the on-field ruling of touchdown stood. The NFL Officiating Department reviewed the video today and supports the decision not to overturn the on-field ruling following the instant replay review.
The result of the game is final.
Applicable rules to the play are as follows:
A player (or players) jumping in the air has not legally gained possession of the ball until he satisfies the elements of a catch listed here.
Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3 of the NFL Rule Book defines a catch:
A forward pass is complete (by the offense) or intercepted (by the defense) if a player, who is inbounds:
(a) secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground; and
(b) touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands; and
(c) maintains control of the ball long enough, after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, to enable him to perform any act common to the game (i.e., maintaining control long enough to pitch it, pass it, advance with it, or avoid or ward off an opponent, etc.).
When a player (or players) is going to the ground in the attempt to catch a pass, Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1 states:
Player Going to the Ground. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.
Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 5 states:
Simultaneous Catch. If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control. If the ball is muffed after simultaneous touching by two such players, all the players of the passing team become eligible to catch the loose ball.