In yesterday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Giants’ rookie RB Saquon Barkley made an amazing athletic leap from about the four-yard line to the endzone to score a touchdown. You’ll see it on highlight reels all week, and deservedly so. But while impressive, the play also revealed a pretty glaring hypocrisy in the NFL’s rulebook.
While still in midair, Barkley loses control of the football. Cowboys LB Joe Thomas goes up to stop Saquon, like a center protecting the rim in basketball, and hits the RB’s arm as he’s diving forward. The ball is dislodged before Barkley hits the ground.
However, because the ball broke the plane of the goal line before Barkley lost control, the play is ruled as a touchdown.
That’s fine; that’s the rule. And I’m sure that Ezekiel Elliott has benefited from that rule at some point in his career, and likely will again.
But now take that rule and compare it to what the NFL considers as “completing the catch” on a receiving play. Why is it so complicated and exacting for a catch to be a catch, but then Barkley’s play is so easily called as a touchdown?
The issue is the concept of having possession of the football. It’s a lot easier to say that running back, who got the ball handed to him and then dives toward the endzone, had clear possession of the ball.
But let’s say the quarterback lobs the ball up in the endzone and a receiver catches it in midair. He has the ball securely in his hands and is hovering above the endzone. He’s a good five yards past the goal line.
That receiver still has to land, while controlling the ball, to be awarded the catch and touchdown. If a defender comes up and knocks the ball out of his hands before that, it’s ruled incomplete.
Even if the receiver lands briefly, but a defender comes through and immediately dislodges the ball in some way, it’s not a catch.
See the disparity?
Of course, I’m bringing this conversation back to Dez Bryant and the 2014 playoffs. What good Cowboys fan wouldn’t?
Dez catches the ball, takes two steps, dives forward, and maintains possession all the way to the ground. The ball only becomes dislodged upon hitting the turf.
Had he been a running back diving forward on a carry, it’s no problem. The ground can’t cause a fumble.
But according to the NFL rules, it CAN cause an incompletion.
Now let’s go back to Barkley’s play; his feet weren’t even on the ground when the ball crosses the goal line. He loses control of the ball while still in midair.
And again, rules are rules. The officials made the right call yesterday on Saquon’s touchdown. I’m not disputing that one bit.
But my point here is that the NFL expects a whole heck of a lot from these receivers, but gives tremendous leeway to running backs in similar situations. “Possession” is a much higher standard for one type of play than another.
An even better example is this play from last season:
Jesse James is on the ground, ball in his hands, and breaks the plane. The football doesn’t move until it hits the ground, and because he’s a receiver that’s an incompletion.
Simply put, it isn’t fair.
If Barkley can get a touchdown the way he did, then James certainly deserved one on that play. Dez deserved his catch. So did Megatron. So have a lot of other receivers.
It just puts on display what the NFL can’t seem to figure out; consistency in legislation. Whether it’s plays on the field or in their enforcement of their domestic violence policy, the league’s logic rarely aligns.
I know this seems like small potatoes given that Barkley’s touchdown ultimately didn’t cost Dallas the game. Even if it had, the Cowboys wouldn’t have been hurt by the loss in any way.
But it’s still stuck in my craw since yesterday, and reminded me of Dez’s catch and other infuriating moments in recent years. Even these calls now on defensive players who can’t seem to hit a QB cleanly, no matter how hard they try.
I just wish football still made sense.