Kevin Walter’s touchdown leads to more controversy over catch rule

JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 14: Kevin Walter  of the Houston Texans catches a touchdown pass during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on November 14, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The same referee who overturned Calvin Johnson’s touchdown at the conclusion of the Lions-Bears game in Week 1 is once again at the center of controversy.

Or at least the rule he keeps having to make decisions about is.

During the fourth quarter of the Texans-Jaguars game on Sunday, Houston’s Kevin Walter caught a pass in the end zone, rolled over on his back, stuck the ball up and then it fell out of his hands.

The ruling on the field was an incomplete pass, but referee Gene Steratore reviewed the play and overturned the call, which gave Walter and the Texans a touchdown.

Following the game, Mike Pereira (the NFL’s former director officials) said the call was right.

“No question this should be a touchdown. The action where Walter lost the ball was clearly after he completed the catch, and he actually seemed to be showing the officials he had maintained control.”

“The referee, Gene Steratore, who was the referee in the Lions-Bears matchup in Week 1 for the controversial Calvin Johnson play at the end of the game, made the right call again. This time there was clearly a second act, which to me, is reminiscent of a second baseman losing the ball while taking the ball out of his glove in an attempt to turn a double play. So the Texans win this challenge, but ended up losing the game on a wild Hail Mary by the Jaguars on the last play of the game.”

Here’s the thing that continues to befuddle me about this end zone possession rule. If a running back dives into the end zone and the ball goes over one of the pylons it’s considered a touchdown, even if the ball gets dislodged from his hands at the end of the run. In essence, the play is a touchdown as soon as the tip of the ball crosses the goal line.

But when a receiver makes a catch, has two feet down (or his butt and an elbow in the case of Johnson’s touchdown in Chicago), he has to maintain the catch until next Wednesday. Why? I can see the differences between Walter and Johnson’s touchdowns, but it doesn’t change the fact that CJ had secured the catch, had two feet, his butt and his forearm on the ground. I get it – he didn’t maintain control throughout. But you can’t tell me that a running back can dive for the end zone, lose the ball and have it count for a touchdown when a catch like Johnson’s doesn’t count. The rule stinks.

Now, by rule, I guess you can say that the running back already had possession of the ball when he was diving for the end zone and that’s the difference between that play and a receiver making a catch when he’s already in the end zone. But that hardly seems fair, especially considering guys like Johnson had already secured the catch (not by rule mind you, but by common sense).

That said, I’m fine with the Walter ruling. It was a touchdown – just like Calvin Johnson’s was. (Again, not by rule, but by common sense.)

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