FOXBORO, Mass. — We have another catch controversy on our hands.
For the second consecutive week, the head official of a New England Patriots game fielded questions from a pool reporter regarding a catch by the opposing team that initially was ruled a touchdown but later was overturned.
Last week, it was Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James; this Sunday, it was Buffalo Bills wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, whose toe-tapping touchdown grab from quarterback Tyrod Taylor with two seconds remaining in the first half was ruled incomplete upon video review.
Head referee Craig Wrolstad explained his crew’s decision to overturn the call after the Patriots’ 37-16 win at Gillette Stadium.
“When the receiver confirmed control of the football, he was not able to get both feet down in bounds,” Wrolstad told a pool reporter. “So, his back foot was already off the ground and it stepped out of bounds. His firm control did not occur until after he had one foot off the ground.”
NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron echoed Wrolstad’s stance in a video review of the play, explaining that Benjamin didn’t have possession when he dragged his second foot in bounds.
The overturned call drew plenty of backlash, including from former vice president of officiating Mike Pereira, who blasted the NFL’s centralized replay system in New York.
Field judge Steve Zimmer, who was closest to the play, appeared to point at Benjamin’s feet as he made the catch. But only the head referee is involved in the replay process, Wrolstad explained.
“Well, he might share it with me before I go into the booth, but during the replay process, Steve is not consulted at that time,” Wrolstad said.
Wrolstad also insisted it was “clear and obvious” Benjamin didn’t have possession when both of his feet were in bounds.
“I think we looked at the angle where we had a foot drag early before he had control, and then we looked at when he had control and then we went back again to look at the feet,” Wrolstad said. “It was determined clearly that he was not able to get his second foot down after he had control.”