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Here's how to fix the NFL's confusing catch rule

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Nobody knows what a catch is anymore. SB Nation NFL contributors Stephen White and Danny Kelly have an easy way to fix that.

Danny Kelly: One of the major storylines coming out of the action last week was that the NFL still doesn't seem to know what a catch is.

Golden Tate scored on a play that looked somewhat similar to that of the disputed Tyler Eifert touchdown/no touchdown from a few weeks back -- which was ruled an incomplete pass -- and even though Tate lost the ball as he was falling to the ground, the referees determined he'd established himself as a runner. Most analysts and former referees said they disagreed with the ruling, and Calvin Johnson, whom the rule was based on, said he no longer even understands how they call it.

Now, while I am of the opinion that the league's rules on what constitutes a catch are dumb and make no sense, I don't know exactly how I would build the rule to eliminate some of the issues we've seen. I know you said that you've got an idea for how the NFL could change things -- let's hear it.

Stephen White: To me this all goes back to the Johnson non-touchdown ruling in 2011. At the time there was a huge controversy because it appeared he had control of the ball when he fell down in the end zone, but in an effort to get up and celebrate he did not maintain control after he hit the ground. The problem is that not only did the NFL fail to acknowledge that the officials may have erred, they doubled down and used that play as an impetus to start judging what is a catch and what isn't a catch in new and very confusing ways to most of us.

How can it be that Devonta Freeman catches a pass, takes two steps and makes a football move by stretching out the football to push it past the goal line but that's not considered a catch and touchdown, while Golden Tate does have possession of the football with two feet down but never makes a football move before the ball is knocked out and that's considered a touchdown?

Well it's because the NFL is stupid, that's why.

So what I propose is to make all this complex stuff really simple again. To me the "two feet down and a football move" should always be the overriding factor into whether a ball is caught. If a guy catches the ball and gets two feet down and either takes a third step, stretches the ball out or anything else that could be considered a "football move," then it's a catch, plain and simple, no matter if he ends up on the ground or not.

The only times when keeping possession after falling to the ground should matter is when you cannot use the "two feet down and a football move" rule. That means any play on the sideline where the receiver is only able to get two feet in, but not make a football move before falling out of bounds. That also means any play in the end zone of the same variety and additionally any play in the end zone where a player doesn't get two feet down, but instead uses a knee, hip or some other body part as they are falling that equals to having two feet down. When they are actually, yaknow, falling down while trying to make the catch, then yes, keeping possession after the fall should determine whether it's a touchdown.

To me this would set clear, bright lines that maybe will be missed sometimes in real time by the refs, but it should at least give us a lot more clarity on replays. I don't think it would ever happen simply because the NFL doesn't like to admit they were wrong, but something has to give.

We are seeing more and more of these potentially game-deciding plays coming down to the perception of whether someone is falling during a catch. If they've made the catch, taken two steps and made a football move it shouldn't matter if they are falling. That's where I think the NFL fucked up in the first place after the Megatron non-catch. Had they said that at that point, we wouldn't even have many of these plays being scrutinized at all.

And, oh by the way, Dez Bryant's catch would have been a catch dammit!

Ok, so that's my take on the whole situation. Refs seem to have a good handle on what constitutes a football move after two steps with the football, so I have confidence that they could handle that change to the current system.

Danny: Well, first off, I 100 percent agree with your proposal on the catch rules, and will stump for you on the campaign trail. Anytime a player catches and secures the football enough to start a dive with the ball, to me that indicates "control" and "possession" and should be a "football move." Now, obviously, they took that wording out of the definition of a catch and replaced it with "establish yourself as a runner," but I actually liked the vague "football move" version more.

Ironically, I actually thought that Eifert's and Freeman's plays were more clearly touchdowns (and both were overturned) than Golden Tate's, which was reversed after originally being called an interception!

Like you though, I don't have a ton of faith in the NFL to get this one right. They'll probably continue to double down on an illogical and indefensible definition of one of the most common and important aspects of their sport: A "catch." It's really gotten to the point of absurdity that no one seems to know what that is.