At a painful first glance -- and a second one, too -- it's difficult to understand why an apparent Chicago Bears touchdown was reversed during the third quarter Sunday in New Orleans.
I have only one explanation at the moment. It fits with what has emerged as an early theme of the NFL season: A more aggressive approach to replay reviews.
On the play, Bears tight end Zach Miller appeared to make a leaping grab of quarterback Mitch Trubisky's 25-yard pass. He then fell to the ground with the ball still in his possession. The replay is tough to watch because Miller suffered a gruesome left leg injury, but it appears to show him completing every requirement for the NFL's occasionally-confusing catch rule.
For those who have tried to forget it, the league's rule governing such plays -- when a receiver goes to the ground in the process of the catch -- requires him to "maintain control of the ball until after his initial contact with the ground." The replay seemed to show Miller falling, holding onto the ball, rolling over and then letting it go -- probably because he was in pain.
Regardless, as former NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said on the Fox Sports broadcast, the "process" of the catch ended once Miller hit the ground and maintained control.
"That rollover is not part of the catch process," Blandino said.
The reversal cost the Bears four points; they settled for a 44-yard field goal from Connor Barth.
Blandino's resignation this spring led to the promotion of his deputy, Al Riveron, at a time when the NFL was transitioning to a new replay process. Riveron now has final say on all replay reviews and, as we noted last week, the percentage of overturns is much higher than it was in 2016 and a bit more than in 2015 during the same time periods. The most notable instance came in Week 6, when Riveron reversed what had been a New York Jets touchdown, using a replay that was not broadcast by CBS to change the ruling to a fumble and loss of possession.
Perhaps another angle will emerge to explain why Riveron reversed Miller's touchdown on Sunday. For the time being, however, I can't explain how the existing angles demonstrated that a "clear and obvious" mistake was made on the field.