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The NFL's ‘Calvin Johnson’ rule is just as confusing to Tyler Eifert as the rest of us

Bengals TE Tyler Eifert was baffled by the latest process-completion controversy

A catch or not a catch? That is, as always, the question in the NFL.

On Sunday, Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert caught a pass from Andy Dalton at the goal line. No one questions that. He then turned his body 180 degrees and lunged for the end zone.

That's a play we see every week in the NFL. A player dives toward the goal line with the ball extended, only to lose it when he hits the ground. However, since the ball clearly crossed the plane of the goal line, it is a touchdown.

The easiest call in football, right?


Not so fast.

Thanks to the "Calvin Johnson" rule, it was ruled an incomplete pass, because Eifert lost the ball in the process of going to the ground.

NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino explained why the decision was correct Monday on the NFL Network.

"(Eifert is) hit just as his second foot hits the ground", he said. "To become a runner you got have the ball longer than two feet down, you got to have to have the ball long enough to do something with it, avoid contact, ward off an opponent," Blandino said. "And if it's all that one action and he's going to the ground, even if he reaches, the requirement is to hold on to the ball when he lands and he didn't and that's what made it incomplete."

The problem is Blandino says that Eifert has to "have the ball long enough to do something with it." Isn't that exactly what happened? He had the ball long enough to turn around, hold the ball out and lunge so that it crossed the line. He dropped it at that point, but every football player is taught that once you get the ball across the plane, it is a touchdown.

Eifert Dive

If you show any football official that picture and ask them what the call should be, they will all tell you it is a touchdown. But in this case, even though Eifert had clearly caught the pass and transitioned into a runner, it isn't.

"I don't know if anybody really knows what the right call is," Eifert said. "I had thought once you break the plane the play's over."

Not always, Tyler. Not always.

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