Sorry, Raiders Fans: Rule Book Backs Reversal of Louis Murphy TD
Page 6. Rule 3. Section 2. Article 7. Note 1. That's where the rules confirm that Murphy's apparent touchdown reception was not a catch, because the rookie receiver did not have "firm grip and control of the ball" through the entirety of the reception while engaged with the San Diego Chargers' defender in the end zone.
Here is how the entire Article 7 -- which addresses player possession in this particular case -- reads:
"A player is in possession when he is in firm grip and control of the ball inbounds. To gain possession of a loose ball that has been caught, intercepted or recovered, a player must have complete control of the ball and have both feet completely on the ground inbounds or any other part of his body, other than his hands, on the ground inbounds.
"If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any other part of his body to the ground or if there is any doubt that the acts were simultaneous, there is no possession. This rule applies to the field of play and in the end zone."
Here is the exact explanation under Note 1 of this rule, which the NFL no doubt will cite on Wednesday after the Raiders send a letter of complaint to the NFL office in New York and vice president of officiating Mike Pereira:
"A player who goes to the ground in the process of attempting to secure possession of a loose ball (with or without contact by a defender) 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, there is no possession. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, it is a catch, interception or recovery."
Short explanation -- while Murphy was going to the ground with the defender while in the end zone, he had to maintain control of the ball. Since it came loose from his grasp before the ball hit the ground, the catch was ruled incomplete.
The ESPN Monday Night Football crew of Mike Golic, Mike Greenberg and Steve Young seemed confused by the rules of possession, with Golic and Greenberg vehemently contending that Murphy's acrobatic reception had to be a catch because he had two feet down before the ball slipped from his fingers as he went to the ground.
Young, at first glance, mentioned the correct possession rule, then got caught up in the outrage that had overtaken the announcers' box after the booth review reversed the original touchdown call.
When the second half started, it was clear someone from the NFL office had been in contact with the folks in Bristol -- ESPN showed a previously unseen angle of the play in question that showed the ball completely falling from Murphy's grasp once he got to the ground, and Golic even conceded he had spoken to the replay assistant at halftime. All three announcers clarified the rule and conceded Murphy did not maintain complete control of the football after he touched the ground.
Oakland settled for a Sebastian Janikowski field goal after the call reversal -- and the four-point swing wound up being the difference in San Diego's 24-20 win. Murphy, though, did eventually find the end zone for real, hauling in a JaMarcus Russell bomb late in the fourth quarter for his first NFL touchdown.
But it's the one he didn't get that will have everyone talking.