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Chan Gailey on confusing call: 'It's the Calvin Johnson rule;' Referee: No, it's not

By Tim Graham

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins pool reporter Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post interviewed referee Walt Anderson about the play that was ruled an incomplete pass instead of a Stevie Johnson touchdown.

The play happened in the second quarter of the Miami Dolphins' 24-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Sun Life Stadium.

Ben Volin: "The play in question is the Stevie Johnson play. It was in the second quarter. If you remember, he caught the ball, went to the ground and you called it incomplete. Can you explain the ruling and what you saw?"

Walt Anderson: "The ruling on the field was that the receiver possessed the ball, but as he possessed the ball he is actually in the processes of going to the ground. To complete the catch process, if a player is going to the ground, when he hits the ground he has got to maintain control of the football, which the side judge ruled that he did not."

BV: "The main area of confusion is that he caught the ball out of the end zone, took two steps and then dove, and then the ball came out when he hit the ground. Does the fact that he has two feet in bounds before he loses the ball change anything?"

WA: "Whether you are in the field of play or in the end zone, if you are in the process of making the catch while still going to the ground, whether you hit the ground in the field of play or in the end zone, you still have to hold onto the football. So the fact that he had two, or even three [feet down], the number of steps is really not that significant if you are going to the ground."

BV: "I'm just trying to think of a scenario where it would have been a touchdown. Obviously, if he had just held onto the ball?"

WA: "Sure, absolutely."

BV: "What if he had taken four steps?"

WA: "There is no number [of steps]. The key is, what's the player doing in the act or process of making the catch? If he is going to the ground, then he has to complete all the elements of a catch, which is two feet. So he's got to get at least two feet, and then if he is going to the ground, when he hits the ground he has to maintain control of the football."

BV: "Is that the 'Calvin Johnson rule?' "

WA: "No, actually that rule has been in effect long before that play."

That's all well and good, but there's still confusion about what happened and whether the Bills should have challenged the play.

Is a timeout for the chance to score seven points worth the gamble?

Bills coach Chan Gailey said, "If the ball rolls out it's the Calvin Johnson rule. If the ball rolls out without [the receiver] coming up with it and giving it to the official, they're not going to ever give it to you. So you're wasting a challenge there."

I still say Stevie Johnson had control of the ball with both hands when he stuck the ball over the goal line. Whether or not the NFL thinks it should have been a touchdown, I think it should've been.

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham | [email protected]


Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan | [email protected]


Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski | [email protected]

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