For Pete's Sake

Here is why Steelers’ late touchdown against Patriots was overturned

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Associated Press

If you didn’t have a rooting interest in the outcome of Sunday’s Patriots-Steelers game, then you probably enjoyed New England’s 27-24 win.

If you live in, say, Pittsburgh, you probably think the NFL is stupid.

The last three minutes of the Patriots’ victory was nutty. The Steelers led 24-16 when New England kicked a field goal. Pittsburgh went three-and-out and the Patriots drove down the field for a touchdown and two-point conversion that gave them a 27-24 lead with 56 seconds to play.

Back came the Steelers, who scored a touchdown after only two plays. Here is the scoring pass to Jesse James that seemed to give Pittsburgh the win — or so people thought:

After a lengthy review, the officials determined that it wasn’t a touchdown. Two plays later, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw an interception and the Patriots sealed the win.

Why was that not a touchdown? Mike Pereira, the rules analyst for Fox Sports tweeted the answer:

“Look, here is the rule. If you’re going to the ground you have to hold onto the ball when the ball hits the ground…Going to the ground trumps lunging/reaching to try and get extra yards or score a TD. You do that at your own risk. It’s incomplete…just ask Dez”

That’s a reference to the Cowboys’ Dez Bryant, who was denied a catch against the Packers in the playoffs in 2014.

Pereira continued:

“People are saying a runner breaking the plane causes the ball to become dead…which is true. BUT the receiver does not become a runner until he completes the process of the catch. TOTALLY DIFFERENT”

Later on Sunday, the NFL put out its explanation on the catch/non-catch:

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff