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NFL's catch rule makes early Super Bowl 50 appearance

Jerricho Cotchery's pass was ruled incomplete on the field and the call was upheld after review. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

We were only halfway through the first quarter of Super Bowl 50 when the NFL's troublesome catch rule reared its head. In the end, a shaky call stood because it did not meet the NFL's standard for reversal on replay.

Here's what happened:

With seven minutes, 23 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Carolina Panthers receiver Jerricho Cotchery bobbled a pass from quarterback Cam Newton. Referee Clete Blakeman's crew ruled incomplete. Panthers coach Ron Rivera immediately challenged.

When viewed in slow motion, you could see the ball land in Cotchery's hands. As Broncos safety Darian Stewart tackled Cotchery, the ball shifted and moved to Cotchery's left hand. It touched the ground as he grasped it in his left hand and rolled over. The ball again moved before Cotchery grabbed it for good and stood up.

Two plays later, the Broncos took a 10-0 lead after sacking Newton and recovering his fumble for a touchdown.

The NFL's catch rule requires a receiver to maintain control throughout the process of going to the ground. NFL vice president Dean Blandino said last week that the rule is unlikely to be changed this offseason.

But the call stood mostly because the NFL requires "indisputable visual evidence to the contrary" in order to reverse plays upon review. Moments after upholding the call from the replay booth, Blandino tweeted that the ball "touched the ground and slid up [Cotchery's] body. Not enough evidence to change the call on the field."

I would have voted "catch" if it were up to me, based purely on common sense and the naked eye. But I also didn't think it met the stated standard for review, as fair or unfair as that might be. So goes the NFL in 2015: Rules upon rules upon rules.