A dropped pass by Arizona's Andre Ellington in a game against the Seahawks last year was presented as an example of what would now be a reception with the NFL changing its catch rules for the 2018 season.

Share story

ORLANDO, Fla. — So many franchise-altering things happened in Seattle’s win at Arizona last November — specifically, season-ending injuries to Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor — that a “catch, no-catch’’ play in the second quarter may be easy to forget in retrospect.

But Monday, when the NFL Competition Committee reviewed why it is simplifying the wording of the catch rule in an attempt to make it clearer to enforce, an apparent reception by Arizona’s Andre Ellington turned into a fumble that was returned by Kam Chancellor that was instead ruled incomplete after review was one of several plays cited as a catalyst for change.

Specifically, the NFL is expected to approve a change in wording taking out any requirement to control the ball to the ground.

Instead, what will be required now is to catch the ball, have two feet or a body part on the ground and make a football move, such as a third step or reaching for a first down or the goal line or tucking it away.

“The rule is a lot clearer and allows for all of these great catches,’’ said Al Riverson, the NFL’s vice president of officiating during a presentation to media at the NFL league meetings in Orlando. “Taking out movement-non movement, loss of control (of the ball) really makes it a lot clear.’’

On the play in the Seahawks-Cardinals game, Ellington caught a pass at about the Seattle 31 and then reached and stumbled to about the 25, where he lost control of the ball, with Chancellor picking it up and returning it 17 yards.

The ruling then was that Ellington had not completed the catch.

But this year, that would be a catch and fumble, Riveron said Monday.

Several other more famous plays were also presented as examples of catches that were then ruled as incomplete but now would be receptions, notably the infamous Dez Bryant play in a divisional playoff game against Green Bay in 2015 (a play that had implications for the Seahawks since if Dallas had won that game it would have been the Cowboys and not the Packers playing in Seattle for the NFC title the following week).

Riveron and NFL competition committee chair Rich McKay said the hope is that there will be far fewer replay reviews since what is a catch should be more obvious and easier to determine.

McKay said one of the issues with the rule had been that it was tweaked several times to try to account for replay.

But the league admitted the rule had instead become cluttered and confusing in the attempt to cover every eventuality.

“We tried to tweak, we wanted to tweak, we have been tweaking it over the last six years on this rule and everyone realized that’s the problem,’’ McKay said. “We needed to start over.

“Johnny and Jimmy were out playing in the backyard and they know what a catch is. All of the sudden, our language because of replay was not allowing that to happen.’’

So instead of an incomplete pass, this year the Ellington play would have been a catch and a fumble and Seahawks ball.

That means there could be more turnovers this season, McKay said.

“But if you end up with 10 more fumbles in a year but you save five of the most exciting plays of the year, it’s a trade you’d make every day,” said McKay.

Ellington’s fumble-turned-incompletion ended up not being a real factor in the game. Arizona failed on a fourth down to kill the drive in a game the Seahawks went on to win 22-16.

 

The NFL reviews a play in a Seahawks game last year as it explains changes to the catch rule Monday.