The NFL still doesn’t know what a catch is

The most consequential play of Thursday night’s Patriots-Vikings game didn’t count. 

Hunter Henry appeared to score a touchdown as he gained possession of the football and lunged for the goal line on third and goal. The ball shifted in his hands after he hit the ground and upon review, the play was overturned. Incomplete. 

“I believe I caught it. [The referee] said it hit the ground. But I believe my hand was under the ball,” said Henry after the game. (h/t ESPN)

Head of officiating Walt Anderson’s reasoning for the overturned call could make a person’s head spin. 

“He has elements of two feet and control, but because he’s going to the ground, he has to maintain control of the ball,” said Anderson. (h/t ESPN)

The NFL has been around for 102 years and somehow still can’t figure out what a catch is. 

It doesn’t help that the league has different rules depending on the play. On run plays, the ground can’t cause a fumble — as long as the player hits the ground after being tackled. If he falls on his own accord, then it’s fair game.

The NFL uses a completely different approach to pass plays, where the ground can cause an incompletion even if a player has control of the ball before the ground comes into play. 

To make matters worse, on Henry’s overturned TD, the ball clearly extended across the goal line before what officials ruled as the ground causing the incompletion. In most circumstances, once the ball crosses the goal line the play is immediately over, and a touchdown is called.

No team’s had fortune quite like the Vikings this year. Despite being plus-seven in the all-important win-loss column (9-2), the team is only plus-five in scoring differential (262-257). They have essentially locked up a playoff spot with seven weeks left in the season; Minnesota has a five-game lead on second-place Detroit (4-7). 

New England (6-5) dropped a half-game behind the Jets for last in the AFC East. The Patriots have outscored opponents by 37 points (239-202) this season. 

As important as it is to be good, it’s even more important to be lucky. The Vikings have been good enough to run away with their division and lucky enough to be a Super Bowl threat. 

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