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Ball touched ground and player lost control

With the sport Thursday evening at 11 p.m., the Patriots had the ball on the Minnesota Six. It was third and objective.

Close finish Hunter Henry caught the ball on the goal line and caught it before it hit the ground. He lost possession and then completed the catch in the field.

The official near the action ruled it was a touchdown. The question at the retest was whether Henry retained possession after touching the ground. NFL senior VP of acting Walt Anderson, who handles all retest questions, decided the ball touched the ground when Henry landed, making it an incomplete pass.

After the game, Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters, “Why don’t you guys go up to them with your pool reporter and ask them about the game? don’t you?

It actually is. And certainly they did.

Here’s how Anderson defined the choice to ESPN.com’s pool reporter Mike Reiss: “He went down, the ball finally hit the ground and then lost control of the ball in his palms.”

Why wasn’t Henry given possession before the ball hit the ground?

“Because if he goes down, he has to maintain control of the ball when it hits the ground,” Anderson said. “The common term is ‘ground survival’. This is what many refer to. So when he goes down he has the elements of two feet and control, but because he goes down he needs to maintain control of the ball when it goes down.

As Reiss Anderson explained, Henry had two hands on the ball.

“Now if he stored control of the ball with two palms, even when the ball hit the ground, if you happen to do not lose control of the ball after it hit the ground, that may nonetheless be a catch.”

The decision raises an interesting question regarding the application of the “clear and apparent” standard. The decision on the field was a catch for a touchdown. Here’s the right question for the repeat test: Was the decision on the pitch clearly and obviously wrong?

In this case, there are two separate components to the “clear and apparent” standard. It was indeed clear and obvious that Henry lost possession as he landed and regained possession just short of the end zone. That would have given New England the ball on the one-inch line, fourth place and the goal.

But was it clear and obvious that the ball hit the ground and was moving enough not to catch it at all?

Remember, reversals should only happen when it’s clear and obvious. Fifty drunks in a bar would have to agree, as is often described.

In this case, it seems clear and obvious that it wasn’t a touchdown. But it doesn’t seem clear and obvious that it wasn’t a catch; Henry’s hand was under the ball the entire time. So arguably New England should have had the ball just outside Minnesota’s end zone, fourth and goal.

While it’s possible the Patriots would have opted for the field goal and the 26-23 lead, the Patriots may have opted to try and pound it in for a touchdown. If the process had followed the “50 drunks in a bar” standard, the Patriots should have had that option.

Walt Anderson on Hunter Henry’s touchdown reversal: The ball touched the ground and the player lost control, originally appeared on Pro Football Talk

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