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Dez Bryant's controversial call: Was that a catch?

Let's review.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The most talked about play from Sunday's slate of games is most certainly going to be the catch that wasn't. But did the league actually get it right? Let's review.

(Note, yoou can watch the entire play in question here.)

From the Official NFL Rulebook

Article 3

Completed or Intercepted Pass.

A player who makes a catch may advance the ball. 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;

Bryant clearly and unquestionably did this.


(b) touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands; and

He did this too.

(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.).

Note 1: It is not necessary that he commit such an act, provided that he maintains control of the ball long enough to do so.

Note 2: If a player has control of the ball, a slight movement of the ball will not be considered a loss of possession. He must lose control of the ball in order to rule that there has been a loss of possession.

If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any part of his body to the ground, it is not a catch.

Bryant also did this. He had the ball pinned to his chest. Then, he (voluntarily) removed it from his chest in order to lunge for the endzone while going to the ground. Extending the ball while lunging for the endzone is "an act common to the game".

This is the entire requirement for making a catch, and Bryant unquestionably fulfilled all three conditions.

Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino went on twitter to defend the game's referees, claiming that Bryant went to the ground while in the process of completing the catch.

Item 1: 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.

Had Bryant merely kept the ball pinned to his chest, Blandino would have been correct, as it would be unclear if he had enough time to perform "a football move" before he started going down. However, Bryant removed all possible ambiguity as to if he had enough time to perform an "act common to the game" before losing control of the ball, by actually performing an act common to the game before losing control of the ball.

On a personal note, I understand that publicly defending the referees is part of Dean Blandiono's job description. However, I'm extremely disappointed in the disingenuous method he chose to employ. If the only way the refs can be defended is by citing a rule that clearly does not apply to the play in question, perhaps it's time to admit the call was an error.

On the plus side, maybe now we won't hear any Packers fans complaining about that Monday Night game from two years ago. So, silver linings....