By Chris Emma—
(CBS) As he recovers in a New Orleans hospital, Bears tight end Zach Miller still wonders how the play that forced him into emergency vascular surgery on his left leg and caused extensive damage to his knee was overturned from a touchdown in a loss to the Saints on Sunday.
In the ensuing days, Miller grabbed the phone away from his wife when Bears coach John Fox called and argued over the ruling, and team chairman George McCaskey arrived at his hospital bed with the football that the Bears believe should’ve been a touchdown.
The play occurred late in the third quarter as Miller leaped to corral a pass in the end zone. The play was ruled a touchdown on the field, but all scoring plays are subject to automatic video review. As Miller was helped into a cart, league officials in New York determined that it was an incomplete pass and overturned the ruling on the field. Miller suffered a serious injury on the play as he landed and his leg and knee bent awkwardly.
While the Bears and many in the NFL world ask themselves what a catch is, the league has come out with an explanation to the play. Senior vice president of officiating Alberto Riveron released an “Official Review” video on Wednesday morning in which he and the league stood behind the final call.
“Well, first of all, we want to make sure that we wish Zach Miller a healthy and speedy recovery,” Riveron said to open.
Riveron then pointed to the football, saying it wasn’t fully controlled before hitting the ground.
“Now we know that before he contacts the ground, he must regain control of the football because the ball is loose,” Riveron said. “As he’s coming down, one more time we see the ball loose.
The video continues with Miller hitting the ground.
“Now we’re looking for the ball to make sure it does not hit the ground because we know he does not have control,” Riveron said. “As we move forward, there’s the ball, the ball is on the ground. We know he did not gain control. Therefore, it’s an incomplete pass, regardless of what happens after this. So, even when he rolls over, that doesn’t count. We already have an incomplete pass. The play is over.”
Riveron is in his first year as the NFL’s new vice president of officiating. He assumed the role after Dean Blandino moved to FOX Sports as their officiating expert.
On the Spiegel & Parkins Show on Tuesday, former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira – also working with FOX Sports – said that this call was so clear that he and Blandino would’ve reversed the call to a touchdown even if it was called incomplete on the field.
“If you survive the ground — there has to be an end, and the end is determined by when you roll over — if the ball comes out after you roll over, it’s complete,” Pereira said. “The process is over. And for the life of us, we just can’t figure out how that play ruled on the field as a touchdown, what was so clear and so obvious to reverse that to an incomplete pass.”