Surprise! In the biggest game of the NFL season, there was confusion over whether somebody made a catch or not! Jerricho Cotchery looked like he hauled this in, but it was ruled incomplete on the field and referees didn't overturn it after Ron Rivera threw his challenge flag.
To think about whether this was a catch or not, let's review the NFL's official wording on what is or isn't a catch. I've bolded some words for emphasis.
If the ball touches the ground after the player secures control of it, it is a catch, provided that the player continues to maintain control.
If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball until after his initial contact with the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.
It looks like Cotchery controlled the ball initially, but lost control when the ball hit the ground. However, he regained control of the ball before it hit the ground again. That would seem to make it a catch. It doesn't seem as if the ball ever hit the ground while not in Cotchery's control, which makes it particularly strange that the pass was ruled incomplete.
Perhaps the call was upheld because the initial call on the field was incomplete -- that's what NFL officiating head Dean Blandino seemed to imply.
On CAR challenge the ball touched the ground and slid up his body. Not enough evidence to change the call on the field.— Dean Blandino (@DeanBlandino) February 8, 2016
Either way, the pass was incomplete, and a few plays later Von Miller stripped Cam Newton for a defensive touchdown. If Cotchery's catch was complete, Newton wouldn't have been dropping back to pass a few yards from his goal line.
CBS officiating expert Mike Carey thought the play should've been a catch.But that often doesn't mean a lot.