NFL Officiating Reaches New Low With Zach Miller Catch

Official Chicago Bears Reporter

by Wanda Wiedman // @WandaW63

Saints 20 – Bears 12

The Chicago Bears were ready to take on the New Orleans Saints in an attempt to make it three wins in a row.  The Bears defense was doing its best to give the offense a chance to make things happen. Even though the Saints were up by 11, a touchdown here would have made it a 4 – point game.  Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is staring at an all-out blitz coming his way with four seconds left to throw the ball. He sees his favorite target, tight end Zach Miller in the end zone and he chucks the rock 65 yards.

The ball sails through the air, as Bears fans hold their breath in anticipation of the catch they know Miller will make. Miller leaps up to catch it and it is at that moment, the unimaginable happens. While in the air, Miller wraps his hands around the ball, but as soon as his foot touches the ground, his knee snaps.

All he is thinking is “secure the ball all the way through”. As he comes down he doesn’t even feel his leg touch the ground because it folds in the most horrific way possible. And yet, this amazing athlete continues to hold the ball securely even when he hits the ground. It is not until he realizes what has happened to his leg that he rolls to the side and lets go of the ball.

courtesy of NFL Game Pass

It was originally ruled a touchdown only to be reversed under the infamous “catch rule”. Here is where the NFL Officiating has sunk to a new low. Referee Carl Cheffers tried to offer his explanation to the New Orleans Times-Picayune this way:

“Obviously we are all familiar with the process of a catch at this point. So we ruled that he was going to the ground as part of the process of the catch. So when he goes to the ground, he has to survive the ground. He went to the ground, he temporarily lost control of the ball. The ball hit the ground, therefore it’s incomplete. The ball hit the ground out of his control. So as part of the process of the catch, he did not complete that process, and therefore it was incomplete and they overturned the call on the field.”

Nowhere in the instant replay and coaches film does Miller’s ball hit the ground or he loses control of the catch process. The ball did not hit the ground. As the replay continues to play on the big screen at the Superdome, everyone can see it is a catch except the officiating crew. So what is a catch or completed pass?

According to Rule 8 Section 1 Article 3 of the 2017 NFL Rules, the player must:

a. Secure control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground. Check!
b. Touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands. Check!
c. And maintains control of the ball after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, until he has the ball long enough to clearly become a runner. (does not apply)

However, the note after is key.

Note: 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.

But here is the kicker. According to Item 1. Player Going to the Ground from the same section of the NFL Rules:

“A player is considered to be going to the ground if he does not remain upright long enough to demonstrate that he is clearly a runner. 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 until after his initial contact with 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.”

In the entire catch process, Zach Miller did not allow the ball to touch the ground until after he had securely caught the ball and rolled to his side. Everything stated above, as pertaining to this play, is a catch and should have remained a touchdown.

This is why I believe that the NFL needs to implement fines to officiating crews when they incorrectly remove a touchdown from a team, changing the outcome of a game. To add insult to injury, Miller almost loses his leg and all he wants is his touchdown back. The National Football League needs to make this right, give him his touchdown and correct the score to read Bears 18, Saints 20.

Chat Bears football with Wanda on Twitter // @WandaW63

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