The rules on what constitute a catch might change, but the search for true clarity continues.
The latest example came Sunday in Baltimore, where Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert saw an apparent touchdown reception overturned upon official review. On a fourth-and-goal from the Ravens' two-yard line, Andy Dalton targeted Eifert, who caught the pass with his back to the goal line, turned toward the end zone and stretched his arms across the plane of the goal line. He then lost the ball as he fell on top of a Ravens defender.
The on-field officials signaled touchdown. The decision to overturn the call meant a turnover on downs. The parallels to Dez Bryant's catch/non-catch in January's NFC divisional playoffs were obvious.
"I don't know if anybody really knows what the right call is," Eifert said after the game, per ESPN.com.
Dean Blandino, the NFL's vice president of officiating, backed the call during a Monday morning appearance on NFL HQ.
"(Eifert is) hit just as his second foot hits the ground. To become a runner you got have the ball longer than two feet down, you got to have to have the ball long enough to do something with it, avoid contact, ward off an opponent," Blandino said. "And if it's all that one action and he's going to the ground, even if he reaches, the requirement is to hold on to the ball when he lands and he didn't and that's what made it incomplete."
CBS cameras captured an annoyed Marvin Lewis after the touchdown was wiped away, effectively costing the Bengals a 21-0 halftime lead. Lewis, a member of the league's competition committee, supported the call after the game.
"You have to possess the football and give it to the official. That's what I tell our guys all the time," said Lewis. "Reaching for the goal line, if you haven't completed the catch, you're not a runner yet. So that's what they deemed: he wasn't a runner yet. He has to hold onto the football."
Which is all well and good, except for the part where common sense is shown out of the room. Eifert caught the pass, turned his body and reached the ball past the goal line. It's a touchdown that disappears into the Bermuda Triangle section of the NFL rulebook.