On Sunday, there was some debate as to whether or not the referees on the field ruled correctly that Green Bay Packers receiver Romeo Doubs caught a touchdown when it appeared that he and Denver Broncos cornerback Patrick Surtain II simultaneously held onto the ball. Packers fans who were around for the infamous Fail Mary back in 2012 had flashbacks to a nightmare result.
Unlike the Fail Mary play, though, the officials ruled that this play was a Packers touchdown. All was fine and dandy until Gene Steratore, a former NFL referee turned rules analyst for CBS, made an appearance on the broadcast. As we covered yesterday, Steratore made the case that whoever’s feet came to the ground first — in this case Surtain — should have been awarded the ball.
I’m going to have to disagree with the play, and here’s why, guys: Look, four hands possess this football while both players are airborne. It is not a catch and finalized until you have possession with two feet down. If you look at this play, when the [two] players possess the football, the defensive player’s feet land before the offensive player’s feet land. The ball never disengages from either one. So in my opinion, Surtain possesses the ball with two feet down before the receiver does. Therefore, I think it’s an interception.
After the game, referee Alex Kemp, who was working the field that night, was asked questions about the play in his pool report interview. The following exchange was reported by Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Q: Why was that was ruled a score?
Kemp: “We ruled on the field that the Green Bay receiver controlled the ball while airborne and came to the ground and never lost control of the ball and therefore, by rule, it is a touchdown.”
Q: There’s a question as to whether it matters if Surtain’s feet were on the ground first and did that mean he possessed the ball first?
Kemp: “No, that does not.”
Q: That does not impact the ruling at all?
Q: It’s simply if the receiver controls throughout the catch?
Kemp: “That is correct.”
I’m not sure how Kemp decided that Doubs had control of the ball, as it seemed like Surtain had just as much of a right to the ball throughout the process, but we’ll call that a lucky break for an unlucky Packers team at this point. The argument between the perspectives of Steratore and Kemp seem to center around whether or not Doubs had sole possession of the ball in the air, which I guess is up for debate. As of now, the league has not made a statement about the ruling of this play.