Lest sports fans endure years of Ravens homers, Patriots haters and Skip Bayless braying about how they were robbed by the refs in the AFC Championship Game, I’ve taken it upon myself to do a frame-by-frame video analysis of the now-infamous play: New England cornerback-du-jour Sterling Moore slapping what might have been a game-winning touchdown pass out of the arms of Baltimore receiver Lee Evans.
After a couple dozen viewings, I isolated the crucial frame which proves that Evans had lost control of the ball before his second foot had hit the turf, as required by the NFL rules:
Just before this freeze-frame, Evans had the ball cradled (albeit too loosely) to his stomach. But Moore swatted at Evans, and batted the ball downward. And as these details show, Evans lost control of it milliseconds before his second foot hit the turf:
The proof? As the detail above shows, there is a visible shadow which extends under the entirety of the ball and toe of Evans’s second foot... his heel being nowhere near the turf:
Higher-resolution video would demonstrate this point even more conclusively, revealing one or more frames immediately prior to this one (but not available to those of us who have to rely on YouTube) which would show Evans’ foot even farther from the ground with the ball already dislodged by Moore’s clutch slap.
Here is the relevant NFL rule:
If a player controls the ball while in the end zone, both feet, or any part of his body other than his hands, must be completely on the ground before losing control, or the pass is incomplete.
Moore, it’s worth nothing, was brought in from the Patriots’ practice squad after a host of other defenders either got injured, got cut, or just generally sucked this year. His instinctive but precise slap at the football, at a moment when others would have given up in despair at having given up a season-ending catch, proves the value of relentless practice and commitment to finishing every play. Über-coach Bill Belichick will no doubt be reminding his teams of this for years to come.
Lastly, here is a final screenshot showing all the emotion which Belichick evinced at the moment that Billy Cundiff’s attempted game-tying field goal sailed left of the goalposts... Which is to say: None.
Personal Note: Though a total sports nut as a kid, for years I lost interest. Two things conspired to bring me back into the fold: (1) The endless St. Lawrence Cement controversy. When one is involved with such an all-consuming, round-the-clock fight, virtually everything one does, hears, or watches in some way starts the mind thinking again about the endless amount of work at hand. Sports, I found, were the only form of recreation which didn’t relate at all to the intense, complex and maddening business of stopping the plant; (2) Belichick’s highly methodical, analytical, dispassionate, disciplined and rational approach to coaching in the salary cap era is fascinating to watch, teaching lessons applicable far beyond football. His success is the triumph of matching talent to strategy: finding both novel and conventional ways to win. He’s married asymmetrical forms of warfare (e.g. surprising Denver with run plays by nimble tight end Aaron Hernandez) to grind-it-out study and training. Meanwhile, there appears to be virtually none of the usual chest-thumping bravado, knuckle-dragging bluster, or faith-based superstition involved. That makes victories over the likes of pious but undisciplined opponents like Tim Tebow’s Broncos all the more awesome. The Patriots do their homework, rather than saying their prayers.