That hit kept Clayton from getting his second foot down, but he kept control of the ball as his elbow and then his body contacted the ground. After that, a Miami defender, stripped the ball from Clayton and it flew (without touching the ground) to LB Jason Taylor, who carried the ball to the end zone. The TV crew bought it as a touchdown. The officials conferred and ruled an incomplete pass.
As the clock had under two minutes to go, any review was up to the officials in the booth upstairs. Clayton and the Bucs plainly believed that he had made a reception and after that was down by contact.
That's where the rulebook comes in.
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 after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone.This rule, based on the wording alone, is open to considerable interpretation.
When Clayton caught the ball in his hands, he was not in the act of going to the ground. However, the catch doesn't count as a reception until he makes a football move.
So, where do the beginning and ending of "act of catching a pass" occur? If Clayton needed to get two touches before having the catch count, then the officials probably made the right call. Clayton was, after all, going to the ground prior to getting the two touches.
If, on the other hand, the "act of catching a pass means getting it in one's hands and controlling it, that was accomplished before Clayton was going to the ground.
The ruling indicates that the officials saw it the first way.
If they blew the call, I guess we'll find out about it too late to make a difference in the final score.
Note: My memory banks hold a recollection of a call like this going against Clayton in the past. And I think I remember that after the game he said something along the lines that he would remember and not let it happen again. But it isn't all on Clayton. The Dolphin defender gets credit for stripping the ball away and enabling the so-called interception.
Scott Reynolds of Pewter Report has posted the explanation of the call from referee Tony Corrente. I think if Clayton gets both feet down before starting toward the ground, he has a reception and a first down. The call was painful, but probably correct.
Defensive backs should consider catching receivers who leap to catch the ball. Hold the guy up in the air until the ball can be stripped away. At worst it's an incomplete pass.
Then watch for a trend toward 300 lb receivers.
This comes as no surprise to me:
Mike Pereira the NFL's vice president of officiating, has informed the Bucs he agrees with the instant replay reversal that resulted in an interception by the Dolphins' Jason Taylor Sunday.To reiterate my point above: You NFL defenders start catching receivers in midair if they happen to jump for the ball. So long as they're not touching the ground, you'll have carte blanche to strip the ball and "intercept" it. That receiver will remain in the process of going to the ground for as long as you need. Might as well carry him toward the end zone while you're at it. It's not like forward progress matters when the receiver hasn't completed the reception.
Or does it?
Seems to me that NFL officials regularly give forward progress to receivers who catch the ball while in the process of going to the ground. Apparently the possession is somehow retroactive.