Philadelphia Eagles

What's a Catch? Super Bowl Raises the Question Again

The Super Bowl provided more questions than answers about the NFL catch rules

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A catch or not a catch? That's still a good question.

And it was asked a few more times during the Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles.

By the players and coaches — and millions more on social media and in front of their TVs at home.

According to Rule 3, Section 2, Article 7 of the NFL Rulebook: “A catch is made when a player inbounds secures possession of a pass, kick, or fumble that is in flight.”

But it was a bit more complicated than that on the NFL's biggest stage.

In the third quarter on Kansas City's 38-35 victory Sunday, Philadelphia faced third-and-14 when Jalen Hurts found Dallas Goedert along the right sideline and the Eagles tight end caught the ball, bobbled it and caught it again while going out of bounds.

The play was ruled a completion on the field and the Eagles raced to the line of scrimmage. But because the play ended on the sideline, play was ruled dead because Kansas City needed to have time to match Philadelphia's player substitutions.

That gave the Chiefs time to challenge the catch. But a video review confirmed Goedert had secured the ball before going out of bounds.

The Eagles were on the opposite end of that near the end of the first half when Hurts' deep pass to DeVonta Smith was ruled incomplete because he didn't control the ball as he made contact with the ground.

Smith had made an acrobatic grab, securing the ball against his helmet — but the ball moved slightly as he hit the ground. It was initially ruled a catch, but overturned on the review.

“What’s a catch ? Lol,” former NFL defensive end and current ESPN analyst Marcus Spears wrote on Twitter, echoing the thoughts of many similarly confused viewers.

“It is a catch, or an interception, if, in the process of attempting to possess the ball, a player secures control of the ball prior to it touching the ground,” the NFL Rulebook says, “and that control is maintained during and after the ball has touched the ground.”

The whole catch-or-not debate came up again on Philadelphia's opening drive of the second half when Hurts threw a short pass to Miles Sanders — who was immediately walloped by L’Jarius Sneed. The ball came loose and Nick Bolton — who already returned a fumble for a touchdown earlier — picked up the ball and headed to the end zone again.

The call on the field by officials was a touchdown by Bolton, but a review overturned the call with the play ruled an incomplete pass because Sanders never completed the reception.

“It’s 2023 and we still don’t know what’s consider a catch,” veteran free agent cornerback Prince Amukamara tweeted.

And for some, it will simply remain one of life's mysteries.

“What’s a catch? What’s a hold? What is love?” former soccer star and current TV analyst Alexi Lalas wrote on Twitter.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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