In a surprisingly high-scoring game Thursday night between the New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings, the most notable play might have been a touchdown that got taken off the board.
Midway through the third quarter, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones found tight end Hunter Henry for what appeared to be a 6-yard touchdown pass. After a video review, however, the officials overturned the call and ruled the pass incomplete, forcing New England to settle for a field goal.
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Henry clearly disagreed with the call, as did many former players on social media, including ex-wide receiver Dez Bryant, who knows a thing or two about having a great catch taken away. After the game, the media requested a "pool report" from the NFL to get an explanation for the call, and the league made Senior Vice President of Officiating Walt Anderson available instead of the game's head referee, Alex Kemp.
"He was going to the ground, the ball ended up touching the ground and then he lost control of the ball in his hands," Anderson told ESPN's Mike Reiss when asked why Henry's catch was overturned.
A slow-motion replay does show the ball moving and making contact with the turf, although Henry's left hand appears to be under the ball the whole time.
But in Anderson's eyes, Henry didn't do enough to demonstrate "control" of the football.
"Because as he’s going to the ground, he has to maintain control of the ball upon contacting the ground," Anderson said. "The term that’s commonly used is ‘surviving the ground’ – a lot of people refer to that.
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"So, as he’s going to the ground, he has the elements of two feet and control, but because he’s going to the ground, he has to maintain control of the ball when he does go to the ground."
The NFL usually requires clear and indisputable evidence to overturn a call. While you could make the case that Henry briefly "lost control" after he hit the ground, the evidence is far from definitive, which is why it was surprising to see the call get overturned.
"I believe I caught it," Henry told reporters after the game. "He said it hit the ground. But I believe my hand was under the ball. The hand was under the ball, with hitting the ground, that’s what kind of caused it to jump up. They made the call. Just got to live with it."
It's understandable why Henry and the Patriots were upset, as a touchdown would have given them a 7-point lead. The call didn't exactly swing the outcome, though: Minnesota scored 10 unanswered points after New England's field goal, and Bill Belichick's team committed too many unforced errors en route to a 33-26 loss.