NFL Explains Why Hunter Henry Touchdown Was Overturned

'The term that’s commonly used is 'surviving the ground' '



Why was Hunter Henry’s touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings overturned? Because the New England Patriots tight end did not “survive the ground.”

That’s the explanation NFL vice president of officiating Walt Anderson gave to pool reporter Mike Reiss of ESPN after New England’s 33-26 loss to Minnesota on Thanksgiving night at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Here is the full transcript of Reiss’ postgame conversation with Anderson:

Question: What did you see to determine New England’s Hunter Henry didn?t maintain control?

Anderson: “He was going to the ground, the ball ended up touching the ground and then he lost control of the ball in his hands.”

Question: Can you explain why he wasn’t granted possession before the ball hit the ground?

Anderson: “Because as he’s going to the ground, he has to maintain control of the ball upon contacting the ground. The term that’s commonly used is ‘surviving the ground’ — a lot of people refer to that. So, as he’s going to the ground, he has the elements of two feet and control, but because he’s going to the ground, he has to maintain control of the ball when he does go to the ground.”

Question: He has two hands on it. How much is that factored into this decision, that he had two hands on the ball?

Anderson: “Well, if he had maintained control of the ball with two hands, even if the ball were to touch the ground, if you don’t lose control of the ball after it touches the ground, that would still be a catch.”

Question: Is there anything else that I didn’t ask that is important to add to this discussion?

Anderson: “No, we’ve pretty much covered all the elements of the catch that are required to make it complete.”

On-field officials initially gave Henry the touchdown, then reversed their decision after a lengthy video review. Henry, who caught a 37-yard touchdown pass earlier in the game, disagreed with the call, telling reporters he believed he completed the catch.

“I believe I caught it,” he said.

The controversial ruling proved costly for the Patriots. They settled for a Nick Folk field goal to take a three-point lead in the third-quarter, then allowed the Vikings to pull ahead with 10 unanswered points, including what proved to be a game-winning touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Adam Thielen with 9:34 remaining.

The Patriots’ offense, as prolific as it was for the first three quarters, stalled after Henry’s touchdown was waved off. After getting points on six of their first seven possessions, they went scoreless on their final four drives after the controversial ruling, including a pair of three-and-outs. New England also finished 0-for-3 in the red zone and 3-for-10 on third down.

“I think obviously, the refs have a job to do, and they looked at the review and called it incomplete,” Jones told reporters in his postgame news conference. “So we’ve got to move on from that play and play the rest of the game. There was plenty of time left, and there was other times we could have punched it in and that wouldn’t even have been an issue. …

“One call can’t determine the outcome. We’ve got to be able to do better so it’s not even close.”

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