The NFL gave an explanation as to why the Tennessee Titans didn’t get yardage on a play to A.J. Brown that was reviewed in the fourth quarter.
During the fourth quarter of the game between the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts in Week 13, something very confusing took place.
After quarterback Ryan Tannehill had completed a pass to wide receiver A.J. Brown that was initially ruled an incomplete pass but was later ruled a catch and fumble with no clear recovery after review, the Titans didn’t get the yardage for the play.
Normally, when an offensive player fumbles a ball out of bounds after a catch or on a run — which is what looked to have happened here — the team with possession gets the ball where it went out of bounds.
After the game, the NFL’s Senior Vice President of Officiating, Al Riveron, did his best to explain what exactly happened when asked about it by pool reporter Michael Marot, per Terry McCormick of Titan Insider.
"“Let’s start here. First, the ruling on the field was incomplete. Then we have to look at a couple of things. Number one, is it a completed pass? It was; however, we do not have a clear recovery by either team by the sideline. So, by rule, if there is no clear recovery, the ruling on the field stands even if the ball was clearly caught.”"
Marot then asked, “OK, so at that point Vrabel could not have challenged the catch ruling then?
Riveron then responded.
"“Again, if there is no clear recovery, the ruling on the field stands even if the ball was clearly caught.”"
Despite the somewhat confusing nature of Riveron’s overall explanation, what he is saying lines up with what is written in the rule book; although he didn’t really answer Marot’s second question.
As Rule 15, Section 3, Article 2, Item 1, Note 2 states:
"“When a ruling of incomplete is changed to a catch and fumble, the ball will be awarded at the spot of recovery to the team that recovers the ball in the immediate continuing action. If there is no clear recovery, the ruling on the field stands even if the ball was clearly caught.”"
One of the issues here is that neither team was really given a chance to recover the ball, as the play was immediately blown dead as an incomplete pass by officials. And, on top of that, there was no ruling of the ball being out of bounds, even after the review.
Since, according to the officials, there was no clear recovery on the play, the initial call of an incomplete pass stood, as per the rules. So, while the play was bizarre and the rule seems dumb, it was actually by the book.