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Blandino: Competition Committee to review catch rule

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The overturn of Dez Bryant's brilliant 31-yard reception in the Dallas Cowboys' Divisional Round loss robbed football fans of a defining playoff moment and penalized one of the NFL's best players for maximizing his athletic ability in an extraordinary effort to reach the end zone.

It was the correct interpretation of a frustrating "process of the catch" rule so convoluted that each of the major networks employs an officiating expert to interpret it for the NFL's worldwide audience.

Bryant might just get his wish.

Dean Blandino, the NFL's vice president of officiating, confirmed to Rich Eisen on Sunday's edition of NFL GameDay Final that the rule will be reviewed by the Competition Committee in the coming offseason.

It's easy to understand that willingness to revisit the "process of the catch" after reading referee Gene Steratore's overly complex explanation of his game-shifting decision.

"Although the receiver is possessing the football, he must maintain possession of that football throughout the entire process of the catch," Steratore told a pool reporter after the game. "In our judgment, he maintained possession but continued to fall and never had another act common to the game.

"We deemed that by our judgment to be the full process of the catch, and at the time he lands and the ball hits the ground, it comes loose as it hits the ground, which would make that incomplete; although he re-possesses it, it does not contact the ground when he reaches so the repossession is irrelevant because it was ruled an incomplete pass when we had the ball hit the ground."

Fans can't be blamed for scratching their heads at that mind-numbing legalese. How can a player "reach" for the end zone without possession of the ball? It fails any simple logic test.

We learn how to catch in the backyard by the time we leave toddlerhood. We understand that Bryant's actions constitute a catch on any patch of grass outside of an NFL stadium.

Bryant made a rare play to leap 10 feet in the air and span 5 yards on the gridiron to come down with a contested ball and lunge for a potential game-winning touchdown. It's an effort that should be rewarded in any NFL game.

"The whole thing is uncommon to me," NFL Media's Brian Baldinger said Monday on NFL Aftermath. "The whole thing is greatness. He's making a play that not many guys in this league can attempt to make -- and he's getting punished for it."

The problem the Competition Committee faces is the law of unintended consequences. If a catch is determined to be merely two feet down and clear possession, the NFL will see a rise in "the cheap fumble," as outlined by Peter King on TheMMQB.com.

That has to be preferable than eliminating historically great, season-shifting highlight-reel plays, with needless controversy overshadowing the season's most entertaining and rewarding weekend of football.

The NFL has unquestioned hegemony in the American sports landscape, in no small part because of the priority placed on constantly improving and evolving the product on the field.

This is a nonsensical football bylaw.

Whether it goes by the name of the "Calvin Johnson rule" or the "process of the catch rule," it's one that needs to be changed for the good of the sport.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Divisional Round game and ranks the remaining quarterbacks still standing. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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