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DeVonta Smith’s no-catch call in the Super Bowl proves that nobody knows what a catch is

The NFL still can’t be consistent with its catch rulings.

The NFL’s rules behind what is, and isn’t a catch is still a total mess — and now it reared its head in the Super Bowl.

With the clock winding down in the second half, and the Eagles looking to jump to a larger lead before the Chiefs received the kickoff in the third quarter, a deep pass to DeVonta Smith was ruled incomplete because he didn’t control the ball as he made contact with the ground.

The issue here isn’t so much the play itself. To be honest, the correct call was made after review and by the letter of the law. A catch is defined in the NFL rulebook under its broader rules on possession, but more specifically says:

It is a catch, or an interception, if, in the process of attempting to possess the ball, a player secures control of the ball prior to it touching the ground, and that control is maintained during and after the ball has touched the ground.

In the case of the Smith catch he secured it against his helmet, and when he hit the ground the ball moved enough not to guarantee possession. What made this iffy was that officials on the field ruled it as a catch, then overturned it on review — and an argument can be made that the review wasn’t conclusive enough to justify reversing the call.

The larger problem with catch calls is that they are far too subjective. If you’ve watched 100 NFL games this season you will have seen catches like Smith’s and far more egregious ones, and they’ve been called catches in the past.

Ultimately the Eagles settled for a field goal when their drive stalled, but there’s a very real chance this call ended up costing Philadelphia a touchdown.