Like it or not, Calvin Johnson call correct

September, 12, 2010
9/12/10
5:21
PM ET
CHICAGO -- OK, first things first. I know everyone is talking about Calvin Johnson's touchdown-turned-incomplete-pass, the one that would have given the Detroit Lions a victory against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field but instead was their third-to-last play of a 19-14 loss.

[+] EnlargeJohnson
Mike DiNovo/US PresswireDetroit's Calvin Johnson was unable to maintain possession of this pass in the final minute against Chicago.
I'm sorry to tell you this, Lions fans, but the call was 100 percent right based on NFL rules. In fact, the play is similar to the one we discussed last season in the Dirty Laundry feature that explained why Green Bay Packers receiver Greg Jennings lost a touchdown against the Bears. Again, here is the wording of the NFL rules that applies to both catches:

If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.

I know it doesn't make intuitive sense. I know Johnson made a leaping catch of a 25-yard pass from Shaun Hill. There is no doubt he had two feet in bounds while maintaining possession. But Johnson dropped the ball after he landed on the ground and didn't regain possession.

I didn't like the rule last year and I don't like it now. But based on the wording of above, officials were correct to overturn the original touchdown call and rule it incomplete. The same goes for the booth replay official, who upheld the decision. Like it or not, that play is an incomplete pass in the NFL.

To their credit, the Lions mostly agreed.

"The rule is if you are going to the ground in the process of making the catch, you need to finish with the football," coach Jim Schwartz said. "And we didn't finish with the football."

Johnson was less diplomatic but ultimately didn't challenge it.

"We have to move past it," Johnson said. "Can't do nothing about the call. I'm not saying nothing about the referees or nothing like that. It is what it is."

Unfortunately for the Lions, "it" was an incomplete pass.

Back with more in a bit.

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