NFL Officiating executive responds to overturned Hunter Henry touchdown
November 25th, 2022
In a game full of questionable calls Thursday night, the overturned touchdown by Patriots tight end Hunter Henry in the third quarter will likely be the one that gets the most attention. Henry appeared to high-point a third down pass from Mac Jones and reach across the goal line for a touchdown catch, but the play was reviewed and ultimately overruled.
That ended up being a key point in the game. Instead of taking a 30-23 lead, the Patriots only went up three points after settling for a field goal. Those four points forced the Patriots to go for a touchdown on their final two drives of the game, the first of which ended with a fourth down stop well within field goal range.
After the game, ESPN’s Mike Reiss conducted an interview with NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Walt Anderson, to further understand the call. Reiss broke the subject down into three questions. First, he asked what Anderson saw to determine Henry didn’t maintain control.
“He was going to the ground, the ball ended up touching the ground and then he lost control of the ball in his hands,” Anderson explained.
Reiss then asked why Henry wasn’t granted possession before hitting the ground. “Because as he’s going to the ground, he has to maintain control of the ball upon contacting the ground,” Anderson noted. “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.”
This segment of the explanation is one that stood out to many Patriots fans – mainly because the ‘survive the ground’ verbiage was removed from the NFL rulebook prior to the 2018 season.
Finally, Reiss asked if Henry having two hands on the ball as it contacted the ground was a factor. ”
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,” Anderson said.
“They called what they called. I believe I caught it,” Henry himself told reporters after the game. “They said it hit the ground but I believe my hand was under the ball so – my hand was under the ball with it hitting the ground, so that’s what caused it to jump up.”
Bill Belichick deferred to the pool report when asked about the play after the game. Quarterback Mac Jones answered a question about the play by saying “The refs have a job to do. They looked at that play and ruled it incomplete…there were other chances we could have punched it in…one call can’t determine the outcome.”
While this play will certainly receive plenty of attention in the coming days, it was hardly the only time head referee Alex Kemp and his crew were in the spotlight. Another play that will likely get some revisiting is a key third down in the fourth quarter that saw multiple penalties on the Vikings go uncalled.
This one too. But why does Mac grab his facemask as if his facemask hurts? Just one of those questions you wonder sometimes. Anyways.https://t.co/M0EwSL8met
Coming into this game, Kemp’s crew was throwing the most penalty flags per game in the NFL this season at 13.11 per game. They ended up calling nine penalties in this game – six on the Patriots for 55 yards and three on the Vikings for 20 yards.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarthor via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.