There's a very disturbing trend developing in the NFL and in college football. Wide receivers are losing games because of their fear that falling to the ground will give them a boo-boo.
Several weeks ago, Dez Bryant lost a game for the Dallas Cowboys in the final moments against the NY Giants. He leaped in the air near the back of the end zone, caught a pass that would have been a touchdown, but put took one hand off the ball as he was falling to the ground. He put that hand behind him in a futile effort to cushion his fall and his fingers were out of bounds. No catch, no TD. Video
He's not the only one. I have seen a number of players in college and the pros who have lost receptions because they took one hand off the ball in order to cushion their fall and the ball was jarred loose when they made contact with the ground. It is much easier to hang onto the ball with two hands than with one. Earlier this year, Vanderbilt's best receiver dropped a long pass doing exactly that against Northwestern.
Perhaps the most famous example of a receiver losing the ball upon contact with the ground because one hand was cushioning the fall rather than clutching the ball is that of Detroit's Megatron, Calvin Johnson. Here's nfl video of the play in the final minute of a game 2 years ago against the rival Chicago Bears. Had he held the ball tightly with both hands as he fell, the Lions would have won the game.
The fear of a boo-boo manifests itself another way -- on sideline/endline catches. We saw it last night when Mike Wallace of the Pittsburgh Steelers cost his team the game against the Baltimore Ravens because of his fear of falling to the ground. He caught the ball next to the sideline in the end zone, got one foot down, but failed to get the second one down inbounds. He didn't get his second foot down because he was unwilling to fall to the ground. It was more important to him to stay upright than to win the game. The fear of a boo-boo must be strong. Had he been willing to fall to the ground, he would have easily gotten his second foot in. Not possible if he needs that foot to keep from falling.
Demaryius Thomas of the Denver Broncos has already lost on TD because of his fear of falling. In a game a few weeks back, Peyton Manning hit him in the back of the end zone on a long pass. He easily got his first foot down. Had he been willing to fall, he would easily have gotten the second foot down with two or three yards to spare. But he didn't want to fall down. So he took a long step with his second foot to keep himself upright and it landed on the endline -- incomplete.
Yesterday against the Chargers, Thomas' fear of a boo-boo falling nearly cost the Broncos a TD again. Here's the highlight video. Initially, the refs call him out. After a challenge by Denver's coach, the call is reversed. Fortunately for the Broncos, they weren't out of challenges. Of course, if Thomas had not been so obsessed with staying upright, he would have easily gotten both feet down inbounds decisively and there never would have been need of a challenge.
Clearly, there is no excuse for this kind of silliness costing teams big plays, touchdowns, and ballgames. Hold the damn ball with both hands, get the feet down, and fall to the ground. Just like a big boy.