Here’s why refs overturned the Steelers’ potential game-winning touchdown vs. the Patriots

NFL rules experts explained why the initial catch was eventually ruled incomplete.

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James reaches for the end zone during what was ultimately an overturned touchdown in the final minute of Sunday's game. Don Wright / AP

With 28 seconds remaining and the Steelers trailing the Patriots, 27-24, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger appeared to find tight end Jesse James for the go-ahead touchdown. Upon review, however, NFL officials ruled that James had not completed the catch, deeming it incomplete.

Given that Roethlisberger threw a game-ending interception two plays later, James’ non-touchdown inevitably took on a greater significance. First, here’s the play as it was initially shown on television:

And here’s the replay, where CBS announcers Jim Nantz and Tony Romo begin to realize the possible issue with James’ play:

After the game, here’s what referee Tony Corrente had to say about the call:


Former NFL officials Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino both weighed in afterward to explain the exact reason why the initial catch was ruled incomplete:

Additionally, here’s an official explanation from the NFL about the call:

The Patriots won the wild showdown with their AFC rival, gaining a leg up in the chase for the top conference playoff seed. New England also moves a step closer to home field advantage in the playoffs, where they could potentially meet Pittsburgh in a rematch.