There are three certainties in any NFL postseason: A champion will be crowned, the Los Angeles Chargers will find a way to embarrassingly blow it, and fans everywhere will argue over whether a player actually caught a ball.
One of those bingo squares has already been ticked off, as Ja’Marr Chase and the Cincinnati Bengals gave us another Sunday. Chase became the last wide receiver involved in a catch controversy after attempting to reel in a potential touchdown in the second quarter.
The game in question occurred with 1:49 left in the second quarter. The Bengals led the Buffalo Bills 14–7 at the time, and another Cincinnati touchdown might have broken things open before halftime. For a moment it seemed that the Bengals did it. Joe Burrow joined Chase in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
Except the piece had to be graded. Chase—in almost all replays—appeared to catch the ball and get into court with both feet before falling to the floor. It looked so clear in some shots that CBS announcer Tony Romo proclaimed, “That looks like a catch.”
Was Rome right? Check out the main camera angle and judge for yourself.
Chase initially gets the catch and gets his feet in the track as he goes down to the ground. However, as Chase hits the ground, Bills linebacker Matt Milano gets his hand on the ball, knocking it out of Chase’s grasp. You can see Chase struggling to maintain possession at the very end of the game. For at least a brief moment, Chase appeared to lose the ball before making it safe again.
At least, that’s what the refs must have seen. Officials turned the game around and said Chase had no possession. The touchdown was taken off the board and the Bengals settled for a field goal attempt. Evan McPherson made the kick to give the Bengals a 17–7 lead going into halftime.
Was that the right decision? The ball seems to move at the end of the game, so it’s an easy no-catch, right? You could also make the argument that Chase had possession when he hit the ground, and Milano didn’t throw the ball out until after Chase went down. Under normal circumstances, Chase might get knocked down the moment he was on the ground and touched by Milano, but not here.
This is… eerily similar to just about every other catch controversy NFL fans have experienced over the past decade. It’s been eight years since Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant lost a touchdown after the ball hit the ground and came loose on the goal line. That moment seemingly changed the way touchdown catches are determined in the NFL.
Since then, about two to five plays each week have left NFL fans arguing over whether a receiver actually caught the ball. Chase became the last to be added to that list on Sunday. Considering how often this seems to happen, he won’t be the last.