Football: Dez Bryant And Completed Forward Pass

Several weeks ago, I analyzed completed forward passes in both college and professional football.  You can read that post here.

Earlier today, the Green Bay-Dallas game involved this issue late in a close game.

The issue involved a 4th down pass to Dallas’s Dez Bryant.  Here is the video:

The official initially called the play a completed forward pass, which would have given Dallas a first down on the Green Bay 1 with a chance to take the lead.  Following an official review, the call was overturned, giving Green Bay the ball.  Green Bay then ran out the clock.

So how do the rules apply here?  NFL Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3 states , in part:

A forward pass is complete … if a player … maintains control of the ball long enough … to enable him to perform any act common to the game (i.e., maintaining control long enough to pitch it, pass it, advance with it, or avoid or ward off an opponent, etc.).

Bryant appears to possess the ball long enough to enable him to perform any act common to the game.  In fact, the example above lists advancing with the ball as one act, which Bryant arguably did by reaching the ball forward.

However, Article 3 also contains “Item 1”, which states:

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 throughout the process of contacting 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.

Green Bay Fan would argue that Item 1 applies here; that is, Bryant did not maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground. Green Bay Fan likely has a strong argument here in favor of an incomplete pass.  However ….

The standard for overturning a call on the field is stated in NFL Rule 15, Section 9, Article 3, which explains that the Referee only can reverse a call on the field with indisputable visual evidence.  Did indisputable evidence exist?  Did the ball without a doubt hit the ground (and not part of Bryant’s arm)?  Based on the visual evidence I saw, No and No.  The standard is indisputable visual evidence.

But I did not see the Referee’s visual evidence (and I’m a Dallas fan).  Good luck the rest of the way, Green Bay.