Recently, the debate of what constitutes a catch and what does not has been a significant talking point in many football games. The NFL competition committee has been examining the rules on catches and hopes to come up with clear guidelines that will assist officials in minimizing errors and subsequent questionable decisions.
In the recent seasons, there have been several controversial rulings affecting outcomes of significant games. For instance, during the NFL game in December 2017 between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers, the game had a controversial ending. Jesse James of the Steelers appeared to catch the ball in the final seconds of the game. The score would have given a 3-point win to the Steelers and victory over Patriots. However, it did not qualify as a catch. NFL rules state that the player has to maintain control of the ball before it hits the ground. But in this case, the ball fell from James at the goal line from the pull-down by Duron Harmon, defensive back of the Patriots.
The Catch Rules
According to the NFL, the forward pass is complete for the offensive team or misinterpreted in the case of a defence if the player:
1. Has secure control of the ball using hands or the arms before touching the ground
2. Touches the ground using both feet or other parts of the body but not via the hands
3. Fulfils 1 & 2 and maintains control of the ball and has the ball for enough time to be a runner.
A player has to maintain control to qualify as a catch. If a player loses the ball before touching the ground and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, it's not a catch since it is an incomplete pass.