All (Possible) Touchdowns Are Not Created Equal
09.19.2009 4:30PM

Odds are that you, like most of America, did not see the Raiders score an apparent touchdown in the closing seconds of Monday Night Football's second game. That's because it happened close to midnight in the Eastern Time Zone and you were already in bed. But after further review (it was under 2 minutes in the half, so the "booth" issued a video review) the call of touchdown was overturned to an incomplete pass. And with the reversal, proved that all (possible) touchdowns in the NFL are not created equal.

NFL rules stipulate that a receiver through the process of making a catch, must maintain possession of the ball if he goes to the ground, forced or otherwise. The Raiders receiver caught the ball, was pushed the ground, maintained possession for a split second when he hit the ground and then the ball slid loose. By the rules, I guess the call was correctly changed. I say I guess because even the rule leaves room for subjectivity. But I don't think I'm arguing against that specific rule. My argument is the treatment of what is/isn't a touchdown. And don't be mistaken a rushing touchdown abides by a very different set of rules than a receiving touchdown.

For a rushing touchdown the point of the ball must simply break the plane of the goal line. We've seen it a million times - a running back is close to the endzone, so he reaches the ball out in hopes of breaking the plane of the goal line. It doesn't matter if the ball is slapped away at nearly the exact moment the ball reaches the goal line, once the ball breaks the front of the endzone, it's a touchdown. The runner does not have to finish the play with possession of the ball because its a touchdown once the ball cracks the goal line.

Now consider a receiving a touchdown. It's not enough for a receiver to grab the ball, tap two feet on the ground, play over, and it be a touchdown. That's how it would be if we applied the rushing touchdown rules to a receiving touchdown. So why the difference? Why is a rushing touchdown afforded the simplicity of merely "breaking the plane"? Either the rule should be changed to allow a receiving touchdown once a player possesses the ball with two feet down or require the whole of the ball to cross the whole of the goal line on rushing touchdowns. All touchdowns should be created equal.




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