One of the most controversial rules in the NFL is the “going to the ground rule.” In other words, this rule states that a player must maintain possession of the ball going to the ground, without the ball hitting the ground.
The entire conversation around this rule has existed for years, but really took off when Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant made a huge catch in the playoffs against the Green Bay Packers, which was later reversed because of this rule.
The rule made another appearance in one of the biggest games of the regular season this year when the Pittsburgh Steelers scored a go-ahead touchdown late in the game, but later had it called back.
“The requirements for a catch, under the committee’s likely proposal, will include the receiver controlling the ball and establishing himself in bounds. There will also be instruction for officials to define a time element, but it will apply both to receivers who are standing and those who are falling during the process of the catch.” (via ESPN)
Thus, more focus will be placed around catches that include this “going to the ground” framework. In many of these cases, especially Bryant’s, the receiver is going to the ground and in the process of reaching forward to extend the ball past to goal line. In this process, despite having clear control of the ball, it touches the ground, which under the current NFL rules, is not a catch.
While this is a step in the right direction, it comes at a time where it is too late and has defined some team’s season to this point. Nonetheless, this was a necessary rule change that the NFL desperately needed.