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Zach Miller and the Bears got screwed by the NFL's confusing catch rule

Had officials awarded Zach Miller a touchdown, the game could’ve had a much different outcome for Chicago.

Chicago Bears vs New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Zach Miller’s tragic exit could’ve been heroic, but instead it will be remembered with frustration for the Chicago Bears, who dropped to 3-5 with a 20-12 loss to the New Orleans Saints in Week 8.

The Bears tight end dislocated his knee making what was originally ruled a touchdown by officials. But a replay review overturned the play and called it incomplete.

Chicago never led in the game and trailed 14-3 at halftime. If Miller was given a touchdown by the officials, it could’ve cut the lead to 14-10. Instead the team settled for a field goal to make the score 14-6.

Playing with hypotheticals is difficult. It’s especially hard to blame that call for the loss, when the margin was eight points and it would’ve only constituted a four-point difference. But the game may have had a much different result had it been ruled a catch.

The rulebook says he needs to complete the process of the catch while going to the ground. And that means it may have been ruled correctly by the officials on the field.

But if this isn’t definitively a catch, there’s probably something wrong with the NFL’s definition of what a catch actually is.

The only reason it wasn’t ruled a touchdown was because Miller voluntarily dropped the ball after dislocating his knee.

According to former NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino, the decision to overturn the call was incorrect.

“The key is did he maintain control of the ball when he hit the ground?” Blandino said in a video on FoxSports.com. “The process of the catch lasts until he maintains control all the way to the ground. It looked like to us that he maintained control, he rolled over, and then as a result of the injury, he let the ball go.”

Who knows how the Saints would’ve played with a 14-10 lead instead of a 14-6 lead. But over the next few drives, New Orleans tacked on a field goal and Chicago got a touchdown.

Instead of a 17-17 tie, Chicago trailed 17-12 and had to play with a sense of urgency in the final minutes while hunting for a game-winning touchdown.

New Orleans got the win and earned it. The Saints won the total yards battle 387 to 307, the time of possession 31:23 to 28:37, and they made their field goals while the Bears missed one.

Chicago was outplayed and lost as a consequence. But the NFL’s inability to simplify its definition of a catch is a source of consistent confusion and cost the Bears a touchdown in a crucial moment.