Bryant Caught It: NFL 3 Years Late
January 3rd, 1993
The ascendant Houston Oilers face the Buffalo Bills in the NFL AFC wild-card playoff game and led by future Hall of Famer Warren Moon and the Oilers comfortably led the Bills 28-3 at the break. Shortly after halftime Houston went ahead 35-3 and the Buffalo fans began heading for the parking lot on that freezing New York day.
That's too bad for them because they left front-row seats and missed what has since become known in pro football as The Comeback. On a series of drives within 6 minutes the Bills pulled to within 4 points - and went on to win the game on an overtime field goal 41-38.
It was the first and last Sunday I ever jumped up and down in the living room and screamed at the television over a sporting event.
What caused all the excitement is as follows: on two of the big comeback plays one Buffalo receiver stepped out of bounds and came back in bounds to catch a ball which was then and now illegal, and on a touchdown, the Bills receivers heels came down out of bounds on the catch. Though replay was an established technology it wasn't in play on that day, the plays stood and the Bills won, only to be squashed like bugs a few weeks later in the Super Bowl by Dallas. Karma Texas style.
Had replay existed the Bills would have likely lost.
The Age of Overkill
Later the league did institute instant replay as a way of clearing up officiating mistakes after all the zebras are only human and capable of making them. As the years passed by High Definition digital cameras became ubiquitous, along with HD monitors and 70-inch screens on our living room walls.
Now 'replay officials' could look at a play at near microscopic levels of view and dissect the action frame by frame in literal milliseconds of time. And they did, and plays became null and void when it could be seen a that a player's little toe was out of bounds. The technological migration allowed game officials to begin questioning a lot of things that happen in real life with the speed of a bullet crashing into a target.
It became acceptable to rule a caught ball was not a catch if the ball wobbled just a fraction in the player's hands at the moment of impact with another player or ground. If you're a fan of the game you've been both stymied and blessed with these overly analyzed milliseconds of misery. The old two-step rule was gone forever.
The Dez Catch No Catch
The NFC playoffs at the end of the 2014 season, the Cowboys Vs. The Packers ancient rivalry resumes - the key play a touchdown catch by Dallas receiver Dez Bryant is ruled incomplete because as Dez hit the ground the ball wobbled just slightly. The Packers went on to win the game, ending the Cowboy season.
That play and many other over-analyzed similar plays, some even in Super Bowls have been a point of contention since.
Now the NFL has decided Dez did in-fact catch the ball. And the new rule, still to be approved by 24 of the 32 teams so that slight movement of the ball in the collision with the ground will now constitute a catch as long as obvious possession is demonstrated on the way to the ground.
It's hard to decide whether the total lack of replay or the over-analyzing of extreme athletic physical movement at high speed is desirable. It seems the NFL may finally have stumbled and fumbled their way into some kind of common sense solution.
Common sense in the NFL? It's about dang time.