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Eli Manning clear on what a catch is based on NFL rules

Steelers tight end Jesse James has a knee

Steelers tight end Jesse James has a knee down before crossing the goal line in the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots on Dec. 17, 2017. Photo Credit: AP / Don Wright

While most of the NFL and its fans have been asking the same question for the past day or so – What is a catch? – Giants quarterback Eli Manning said he feels there is very little ambiguity in the current definition.

“I think it is clear what a catch is, especially when you are going to the ground,” Manning said on Monday. “You have to control the ball the whole time. You have to have it. You’re going to the ground, the ball hits the ground, the ball moves and there is a little loss of contact through the end of the play, it’s going to be an incompletion.”

That was the glaring case on Sunday evening when Ben Roethlisberger hit Jesse James on what appeared to be the game-winning touchdown pass in the final minute of the Steelers’ game against the Patriots. The play was ruled a touchdown on the field, but overturned when replays showed the ball rotating after it hit the turf while in James’ control.

Manning said he was watching the end of that game live, shortly after he and the Giants had lost to the Eagles.

“I had a feeling they were going to overturn that,” he said. “You hate it. When you’re watching it live you don’t even think about that not being a catch. But hey, when you go to the ground you have to finish with the ball in your hands. If it hits the ground and there is movement… I was like, I think there’s enough evidence to reverse that.”

Some will say it’s easy for Manning to make such a statement. He didn’t lose Sunday’s game because of it. But in Week 3 the Giants had a touchdown nullified on a very similar play when Sterling Shepard caught a pass in the Eagles’ end zone, established himself inbounds with two feet, fell out of bounds with the ball under control, then lost it as he slid across the turf.

“Hey, that is what it is,” Manning said. “It’s called the same everywhere and those are the rules.”

That’s what Manning said he likes about the current situation. There is clarity. It may not be clarity to the naked eye at full speed, but slow any play down and it becomes fairly obvious whether the ball is moving or not.

“I think there were more questions of whether it was a catch or not before this rule,” Manning said. “It was ‘Well, it looks like a catch…’ What are the exact rules? Then they made it definitive saying these are the rules and it’s going to be called fairly and equally and the same every time.

“They’re the rules. Hey, whether they’re right or wrong, in my mind it’s being called the same everywhere. Those are the rules. Coaches talk about it, players talk about it. Just understand that if you go to the ground, finish the catch. Don’t drop it and celebrate too early, don’t assume anything. You have to finish the play.”

Manning said players therefore have two options when it comes to such plays.

“Either don’t go to the ground or don’t let go of the ball,” he said. “Guys know it. When you go to the ground you have to finish the play.”

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