Johnson appeared to make a leaping TD grab in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, which would have given Detroit a 20-19 lead, but the game's officials -- backed by a replay review -- ruled that Johnson lost control of the ball while falling to the ground, making it an incomplete pass.
"I figured I got two feet and a knee down before I dropped the ball on the ground," Johnson said after the game. "I didn't drop the ball, I caught it. But it is what it is. I'm not going to blame the referees. You've got to move on."
Should it have been a catch? Did the refs blow the call or is the NFL's rulebook to blame? We discuss below.
Dan Graziano: Obviously, it should have been a catch. By any standards of common sense, the guy had complete possession of the ball before he hit the ground, and anyone could see that, including the officials on site. The problem is, in a case like this, the NFL has tried to eliminate "common sense" as a basis for judgment. By spelling out the rule so clearly and defining the exact terms that define a catch in a case like this, the league has eliminated the officials' judgment from the equation.
It's easy to understand why they would do this, because it protects their (part-time) officials from having to explain calls by saying things like, "Well, it looked like a catch to me." In this case, it's the league that takes the heat. People say the rule should be changed, but they can't get mad at the officials themselves when the rules and the league back up the call.
Matt Snyder: No, that's absolutely not a catch by letter of the rulebook and casebook. Not only is the rule clear that the receiver completes the catch by holding the ball throughout the act of falling to the ground (not just while falling to the ground), but there are examples in the casebook that back up the ruling of this play.
Now, my reaction was happiness. First of all, because I'm a Bears fan and knew the rule to a T (and if you believe I only think this way because I'm biased, check out my thoughts on the Louis Murphy play last season). Secondly, I was happy because I believe this is an absolutely absurd rule. Hopefully, since the Murphy play last year apparently wasn't blatant enough, this play will be enough to make the NFL realize the rule needs to have an end-zone exception.
Basically, I agree with the masses that it should have been a catch and touchdown, but the angst of those directed at the officiating crew is misguided. It should be at the NFL rules committee.
The rule was applied correctly. It's just a bad rule.
(Ed. note: Snyder is a high school football official and author of "The Zebra Report" on FanHouse.)
Matt Romanoski: It's one of those rules that everyone knows is idiotic -- like the "Tuck Rule" that put the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game in 2002. The call, then, as now, was correct, it's the rule that's wrong, especially when people have seen that play called a touchdown in years past.
I really think the NFL's rules committee comes up with these ridiculous changes every couple of years so they can change them back after a year or two and justify their jobs.
R.J. White: Should it have been a catch? Of course! Maybe not in the context of the NFL rules, but what Johnson did on Sunday was clearly catch the winning touchdown to upset the Bears. Was it the right call by the officials? Probably. It wouldn't be the first time the officials made the correct call, even if the call didn't echo what everyone's eyes could see. Then again, when you're a Lions fan, just the mere prospect of almost winning your opening game is more than you usually experience.
Chris Burke: Besides the fact that I think the ruling, both on the field and by the replay official pushes the letter of this law to the extreme, here's my issue with the call: At what point is Johnson considered to have completed his fall to the ground? When I watch that play, I see Johnson get two feet down plus a knee, elbow and backside. Then he puts the ball on the ground to brace himself as he's standing up. I feel like it would've been within the official's right to determine that he had gotten to the ground with complete possession in that case.
As has already been said above, it's just a terrible rule, period. There's no way to look at that play and say that Johnson didn't make a catch, other than by applying this unnecessary little point from the rule book. And I honestly can't figure why this caveat is in the rulebook in the first place -- the ground can't cause a fumble, so why would it be able to cause an incomplete pass?
What do you think? Weigh in with your comments below.