Officials Mailbag


In MNF game Ravens/Bengals game, AJ Green’s catch was not considered good but the similar catch made by Anquan Boldin was called good and ruled a touchdown. What constitutes a good, “legal” catch? 

A legal catch in the NFL is made up of a few parts.

Two feet in bounds while having “control” of the ball.  You must also maintain that “control” if you go to the ground in the act of making the catch.

Unfortunately this does leave some areas up to interpretation. What is control? What is going to the ground in the act of the catch? To me the biggest part that fans and announcers miss is whether the catch was completed in the field of play or the end zone.  Here is an example:

If the player controls the ball and has both feet in bounds in the field of play and breaks the plane of the goal line … it’s a TD. Even if he subsequently drops the ball after hitting the ground.  However, if the player controls the ball with two feet down IN the end zone, then he must maintain control throughout contact with the ground.

Most of the time these are easy to spot, but interpretation by replay officials and officials on the field can vary.

Please also keep in mind that after a play is ruled on by the officials on the field, the referee under the hood will be very reluctant to overturn the call.

 I heard a lot of Broncos fans complain that Peyton Manning should have earned the team a penalty when the Steelers had 12 men on the field (one was running off). The ref missed it because he was running to his position. Wouldn’t that have been a snap penalty on Manning because the ref wasn’t in the backfield yet? 

The official who is in the backfield with the offense is the Umpire, along with the Referee, and he does not count the defense.  That job is for the Back Judge, and the sideline officials, so he didn’t miss anything.

The NFL has changed it’s rule regarding 12 men on defense to the following:  The play shall not start with 12 men on the defensive side, and the play should be killed when the snap of the ball is imminent.  Since the ball hadn’t been declared live yet, which I know because the Referee will wait for the Umpire to spot the ball and move out of the way before he “chops” the play in, then the snap could not have been imminent, giving the defense a chance to right their wrong.

You are correct that the Broncos would have been called for an illegal snap if the Referee hadn’t declared the ball in play.  The rule reads that no one may touch the ball until the Referee blows his whistle, so it’s really the centers job to know when that occurs.

Feel free to e-mail questions to  If you referencing a particular play, please include the time of the game.