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Pereira’s assault on Calvin Johnson rule overlooks his responsibility for it

After reading the item from MDS on Saturday (yeah, I read the stuff the other guys write . . . sometimes) regarding Mike Pereira’s take on the Calvin Johnson rule and then reading Pereira’s column on the issue, I feel compelled to chime in. And before going any farther, I need to say that I think Pereira was a great V.P. of officiating, and that he routinely supplied excellent candor and detail during the “Official Review” segments on NFL Network’s Total Access. I’ve met him, I’ve talked to him, and I personally like him.

Of course, that’s all a preface to the reality that I’m about to criticize him.

How can Pereira question the league’s handling of the catch/no-catch rule without acknowledging his own responsibility for the confusion surrounding one of the most complicated provisions in the book? By explaining that the “‘is-it-a-catch?’ controversy occurred in the 2010 season opener between [Calvin] Johnson’s Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears,” Pereira creates the impression that the issue previously wasn’t a problem, ignoring that inconsistent and vague application of the rule, on Pereira’s watch, undermined several outcomes during the 2009 season.

Indeed, our discussions with several league insiders have caused us to conclude that the “second-act exception,” which has been used on several occasions to override the failure of a receiver to keep possession upon hitting the ground, was a product of Pereira, not the rule book. The most overlooked, but most significant, application of the rule came during Super Bowl XLIV, when Saints receiver Lance Moore caught a pass at the goal line while falling, reached the ball across the plane while falling, hit the ground and lost possession, and ultimately earned the two-point conversion for the Saints. Pereira, working his final game as NFL V.P. of officiating, had this to say: “By rule, when a receiver with possession of the ball is in the act of going to the ground and performs a second act by reaching out to break the plane, that completes the process of the catch and the ball is dead when it breaks the plane.”

But the rule book says nothing about a second act. The rule says only this: “If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.”

The Competition Committee, though not yet willing to make significant changes to the rule, apparently plans to codify Pereira’s second-act exception, sort of. The proposed rule will acknowledge a completed catch if the receiver, while falling, has enough time to perform a “football act” -- another phrase for a “second act.” The additional confusion comes from the fact that the player doesn’t have to actually complete a “football act"; he only needs to have enough time to do so.

Pereira’s right. This proposed change will create more confusion, and lead to more inconsistency in the application of the rule. But Pereira should at least admit that he dumped several pounds of bad meat into this rancid stew.