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What is a catch? NFL may have helped Cardinals against Seahawks by not knowing

The Arizona Cardinals were driving late in the first half against the Seattle Seahawks when Carson Palmer connected with tight end Darren Fells.

As Fells turned upfield, he was immediately hit, knocking the ball to the ground. Seattle picked it up thinking a catch was completed and the tight end fumbled, but officials ruled the play an incompletion.

And then things got confusing.

A break in the play allowed referees and the off-site replay officials to double-check. Indeed, television replays showed Fells had caught the ball and turned upfield before losing control, seemingly making him “established as a runner” — that’s the NFL rulebook language — and thus completing a catch.

But there was no review of the play call. Arguably, it became a gift to Arizona.

Hold on: Before the Cardinals could continue their drive, the referees stopped the game to finally review the play. As if Arizona wouldn’t get away with a bad call, the initial decision stood.

Here’s some line of reasoning from FOX Sports officiating expert Mike Pereira:

Arizona may have gotten lucky, considering what the rule might be. By keeping possession, kicker Chandler Catanzaro was able to tack on a field goal to close the first half with a 22-7 Cardinals lead.

The issue is, then, about how the rule is being interpreted.

Earlier in the day, the New York Giants seemingly had taken a lead on the New England Patriots when Odell Beckham Jr. made an apparent touchdown grab. The ball, however, was knocked out of his possession as he extended his hands to celebrate.

The touchdown was taken away, and New York settled for a field goal and a 27-26 lead instead. But the Patriots would react by driving down the field to kick their own game-winning field goal with a second remaining.

So what is a catch?

The NFL rulebook was changed this year to replace the vague requirement that a receiver must make a “football move” in order to say he caught a pass. The alteration has only confused matters, as the two instances this Sunday showed.

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