BOSTON (CBS) — What is a catch in the NFL? An overturned touchdown at the end of the first half of Sunday’s Patriots-Bills game is just adding to that years-old question.
It looked like Buffalo receiver Kelvin Benjamin made a wonderful four-yard touchdown grab to give the Bills a 17-14 lead at halftime on Sunday, hauling in a pass from Tyrod Taylor and tapping his toes inbounds for the score. It was ruled a touchdown on the field, but after a lengthy review, the call was reversed to an incomplete pass.
NFL vice president of officiating Al Riveron ruled that Bejamin’s left foot was not touching the ground when the receiver gained control of the football.
Head referee Craig Wrolstad confirmed that following New England’s 37-16 win.
“When the receiver got confirmed control of the football, he was not able to get both feet down in bounds. So, his back foot was already off the ground and it stepped out of bounds. His firm control did not occur until after he had one foot off the ground,” Wrolstad told a field reporter after the game. “It was clear and obvious that he did not have control of the ball until he brought it all the way down into his chest.”
Buffalo instead settled for a 23-yard field goal as time expired, tying things up at 13-13 at the half. It certainly didn’t help their cause that tight end Charles Clay dropped what would have been an easy touchdown the play before. The Bills were outscored 24-3 by New England the rest of the game.
The play obviously fueled more conspiracy theories that the league is in the pocket of the Patriots, especially following last week’s overturned Jesse James touchdown at the end of New England’s win in Pittsburgh. It also had former league employees wondering what constitutes a catch these days.
Like many fans throughout the league, the Bills were not very pleased with the call after their loss.
“Yeah, I am at a loss. A loss as to, I saw it as a touchdown,” said Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott. “And other than that, all I can say right now is, I am at a loss for how a play like that can get overturned.”
Buffalo running back LeSean McCoy didn’t hold back in his criticism of the call.
“Officials up here, they always find a way to get it right for the Patriots. That’s not the reason why we lost, but is sure would have helped out in the game,” said McCoy. “It’s just crazy man, because you put so much into it, and then you get robbed like that. C’mon. That’s a touchdown.”
To his credit, Benjamin did not complain about the call after the game.
“The referee made the call and you have to live with that. We just had to move on and come out in the second half and try to put some more points on the board. You can only control what you can control, and you have to keep playing and move on from there,” he said.
Patriots safety Devin McCourty believes the officials got the call right, but admitted that he’s a little biased.
“It looked like his foot just didn’t drag. I think the thing on the turf is always when the foot drags, you usually see the pebbles. So, I’m probably a little biased, but they weren’t too happy,” he told reporters.
McCourty added that he had a nice conversation with Buffalo players during the review.
“I told them it wasn’t a catch,” he said.