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 answer NFL vice president of officiating Walt Anderson offered to ESPN pool reporter Mike Reiss following New England’s 33-26 loss to Minnesota on Thanksgiving night at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Here is the complete transcript of Reiss’ postgame chat with Anderson:
What evidence did you notice that New England’s Hunter Henry did not retain control?
“He was heading to the ground, the ball ended up contacting the ground, and then he lost control of the ball in his hands,” Anderson said.
Can you explain why he wasn’t given possession before the ball struck the ground?
Anderson: “Because he has to maintain control of the ball while he falls to the ground.” Many people use the phrase survival on the ground.’ So, when he goes to the ground, he has the elements of two feet and control, but because he’s going to the ground, he has to maintain possession of the ball when he does fall to the ground.”
He has two hands on it. How much does the fact that he had two hands on the ball play into this decision?
“Well, if he had maintained possession of the ball with two hands, even if the ball touched the ground, if you don’t lose control of the ball after it reaches the ground, that would still be a catch,” Anderson says.
Is there anything else I didn’t ask that you think is necessary to add to this discussion?
“No, we’re very much covered all of the parts of the catch that are required to make it comprehensive,” Anderson says.
On-field officials first awarded Henry the touchdown, but after a lengthy video review, they reversed their judgment. Henry, who had earlier caught a 37-yard touchdown pass, disputed the call, telling reporters he believed he completed the catch. “I believe I got it,” he said.
The Patriots paid the price for the contentious verdict
They settled for a Nick Folk field goal to take a three-point lead in the third quarter, then enabled the Vikings to surge ahead with 10 unanswered points, including what proved to be the game-winning touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Adam Thielen with 9:34 remaining.
After Henry’s score was called back, the Patriot’s offense stalled. After scoring on six of their first seven possessions, they went scoreless on their final four drives following the contentious call, including a pair of three-and-outs. New England also went 0-for-3 in the red zone and 3-for-10 on third down.
“The refs have a job to perform, and they looked at the review and declared it incomplete,” Jones said in his postgame news conference. “So we have to move on from that play and play the rest of the game.” There was plenty of time left, and there were other moments when we could have punched it in, and it wouldn’t have been an issue.
“The outcome cannot be determined by a single phone call. We have to perform better, so it’s not even close.”