When is a catch not a catch? Ask Eli. (Don Wright/Associated Press)

All of America might have been debating just what constitutes a catch in the NFL after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday. But one man, the hero we need, was neither confounded nor flummoxed.

That man is Eli Manning.

“I know the rules,” the New York Giants quarterback said (via the New York Daily News). “Don’t be surprised. Whether they’re right or wrong, could be one way or the other, but in my mind, I guess, it’s being called the same everywhere. Those are the rules. Coaches talk about it, players talk about it. There’s understanding that if you’re going to the ground, finish the catch. Don’t stop and celebrate too early, don’t assume anything. You’ve got to finish the play.

“Guys know it. Guys know when you’re going to the ground, in the end zone or whatever, you’ve got to finish the play. Especially if you’re going to the ground, you’ve got to hold onto it. Don’t assume it’s going to be a touchdown. Either don’t go to the ground, or don’t let go of the ball.”

It’s really quite simple when he puts it like that.

Not that his explanation helped Jesse James, the Steelers or someone else who understands that the rule was applied correctly but needs to be changed. Someone like, say, Coach Mike Tomlin, who helpfully also is a member of the league’s competition committee. “We all can acknowledge that all of this needs to be revisited,” he told reporters Tuesday. “We have this similar discussion week in, week out. As a member of committee, I acknowledge we got our work cut out for us this offseason.”

Like everyone else, Manning was watching as James failed to maintain control of the ball throughout the process of going to the ground. It may have moved nearly imperceptibly, but it moved as he lunged across the goal line and then it fell to the ground. According to the rule book, James did not have possession even though his hands were around the ball when it broke the plane of the goal line.

“I had a feeling they were going to overturn that,” Manning said. “You hate it. When you’re watching it live, you don’t even think about that not being a catch. But when they run it down, and hey, when you go to the ground, you’ve got to finish with the ball in your hands. If it hits the ground, and there’s movement, I was like, ‘I think there’s enough evidence that they will reverse it.’ It is what it is. It’s called the same everywhere and those are the rules.”

If it’s up to Manning, nothing needs to be changed.

“I think it is clear what a catch is, especially when you’re going to the ground,” he said. “You’ve got to control the ball the whole time.”

If it helps at all, and it won’t, here’s Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1:

“A player who goes to the ground in the process of attempting to secure possession of a loose ball (with or without contact by an opponent) must maintain control of the ball until after his initial contact with 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, there is no possession.

“A player is considered to be going to the ground if he does not remain upright long enough to demonstrate that he is clearly a runner.”


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