DeAndre Hopkins wants an apology. He should get one, too.
It’s hard for any catch in the NFL to leave us in a state of utter awe anymore. It’s only been four years since Odell Beckham Jr. set the bar that every other catch after has tried and failed to live up to, but it’s like the NBA Dunk Contest. We’ve seen it all before. How can it do anything but disappoint now?
Then, Hopkins comes along and does this — and IT DOESN’T EVEN COUNT:
That’s not fair by the eye test. It’s not fair by the “Nuk is UNFAIR” definition of the word. It’s not fair by the “so awesome it should count” unwritten rule that we adhere to on the internet. It’s not even fair under the actual rulebook.
The catch — such a meager way to describe a one-handed, snatched-out-of-thin-air ball that he circles about 60 degrees under one leg, where it is cradled by the power of a singular hamstring, and then he somersaults straight into a right-hand-red, left-foot-green position, all without letting it touch the ground — was wiped out by a bogus offensive pass interference call on Hopkins.
No. 1: “I think somebody owes me an apology. I don’t know who it is, but somebody owes me an apology.”
No. 2: “That was a catch.”
Hopkins is right — that’s not OPI
Let’s check out the NFL’s rulebook, Section 5, Article 2:
g) Initiating contact with an opponent by shoving or pushing off, thus creating separation.
Pushing off is common accusation against Hopkins. In fact, the same guy he left splayed out on the ground on that play, Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard, called him out for it before the game.
“I see he likes to push off a lot,” Howard said earlier in the week, via the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Yes, sometimes Hopkins pushes off. He’s gotten called for OPI 17 times in his career. But check out the play again. Where did he push off?
How about here?
Also nope. Howard and Hopkins get a little handsy with each other, but it all falls under the “let ‘em play” umbrella. None of that should be considered offensive pass interference. At worst, it could be holding on Howard.
So excuse our profanity while we agree with Texans coach Bill O’Brien here:
Hey, Bill O'Brien, how do you feel about the OPI call on Hopkins? pic.twitter.com/MGQ3A7kCHq— Cork Gaines (@CorkGaines) October 26, 2018
Judging by their reaction to the flag, Hopkins’ teammates agreed:
It’s no surprise, but afterward, both parties had their own take on the play.
“He made a great catch, but it was a push-off,” Howard told Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post.
“I’m an honest judge,” Hopkins said. “It was hand-battling. The guy had two hands, he was off balance.”
Hopkins is right again. Howard ends up on his butt, but it mostly looks like he slipped, got turned around, and lost his balance:
And then he got a front-row seat to a David Blaine-like levitation trick:
It didn’t affect the outcome of the game, but the NFL should be embarrassed
At the time, it looked like the call could have been costly. The Texans were up 21-10 in the third quarter, but punted two plays later after the catch was nullified. On the next drive, the Dolphins closed the gap, 21-17. Hopkins got the last laugh, though. On the first play of the fourth quarter, he was left embarrassingly wide open for an easy touchdown and a 15-point lead, the point of no return in a 42-23 win.
So it’s good that it didn’t really matter to the game itself. But this is the last thing the NFL officials need right now.
Officiating has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons this season. Earlier on Thursday, it was reported that one referee had been fired midseason — which never happens.
Sketchy penalties aside, the NFL has been a lot of fun this season. Scoring is up, ratings are up, the arcane version of the catch rule we all hated doesn’t exist anymore. That’s all great news to the NFL’s ears and wallet.
“That was the best catch ever,” Hopkins, who even amazed himself, said. “That counted.”
It should have — and we should be celebrating it for that, not lamenting that it didn’t.
One thing we can celebrate: just how good Hopkins is
It seems ridiculous, but Hopkins might be a little overlooked. He doesn’t get as many headlines as someone like Beckham or Antonio Brown. But anyone who plays him knows how much of a challenge he is to go up against. Hell, even Jalen Ramsey doesn’t trash talk him.
Before Howard faced off against Hopkins, and noted his penchant for pushing off, he also had something else prescient to say:
“He likes to get physical. That’s going to be part of his game. He can make some hell-of-a-catches.”
Hopkins has caught at least 50 catches in every season, including this current one. He was an All-Pro last year and led the league in touchdown catches — and that was with Tom Savage/T.J. Yates throwing him the ball half the year. He’s been in the league for six seasons and has had 10 different quarterbacks. And yet, he produces every time he takes the field.
On Thursday night, he six catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns. He’s in the top three in every major receiver category at the moment.
Hopkins might be the best wide receiver in the NFL right now. He won’t say that — he was asked after the game and didn’t answer. But we can say it. And we’re sorry if we haven’t said it enough.