I’ve been watching National Football League games for more than 60 years and one rule has always been consistent—the ground cannot cause a fumble.

That rule basically was true on a pass completion, too, until a few years ago when Detroit’s All-Pro tight end Calvin Johnson went up in the air, made a sensational grab of the pass, nearly did a flip in the air as he landed in the end zone and then rolled a couple of times to the back of the end zone and as he was raising the football in the air triumphantly, it squirted out of his hands and landed on the ground.

After scrutinizing the play for five minutes, the replay officials in the booth said it was not a catch because Johnson “did not maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground before he regained control of the football,” according to NFL Rule 8, Section1, Article 3, Item 1.

This rule came into play late in Sunday’s Divisional Championship game at Green Bay late in the fourth quarter with the Packers leading the Dallas Cowboys 26-21 on a fourth-and-two situation from the Green Bay 32 yard line with 4:42 left in the game.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw the pass intended for 6-foot-2 wide receiver Dez Bryant near the left sideline who leaped high in the air and snatched it from the grasps of the shorter Packer defender Sam Shields and came down with what was ruled a catch at the one yard line.

And because it looked as though the Cowboys would score the go-ahead touchdown with four tries, Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy threw the red flag challenging the decision.

Replays showed the Bryant bobbled the ball with part of it touching the ground as he rolled into the end zone, despite the fact the referees said the play ended on the one-yard line. 

           After turning the ball over on downs, the Cowboys offense never touched the football again and the result was another heart-breaking playoff loss at Lambeau Field. The last setback occurred in what is referred to as the “Ice Bowl” in 1967 when the Packers scored on the final play of the game and won 21-17 with the wind chill factor registering minus 48 degrees.

The Cowboys had several chances to win this game Sunday, blowing a 21-13 third-quarter lead and not getting enough pressure on hobbled quarterback Aaron Rodgers throughout the game.

Green Bay (13-4) takes its good fortune to Century Link Field in Seattle to play against the defending world champion Seahawks Sunday. Seattle (13-4) is an early 7½-point favorite for the right to go to Super Bowl XLIX in a game that kicks off at 2:05 p.m. Orange time.

The Seahawks were the only team that didn’t have to struggle too hard to win in the divisional championship round.

They used a plethora of huge plays to subdue the feisty Carolina Panthers 31-17 Saturday night in Seattle to become the first defending Super Bowl champion to win a playoff game since New England in January 2006. 

Strong safety Kam Chancellor broke the game wide open with his 90-yard interception return for a touchdown midway through the fourth period.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was at his best against the Panthers, directing six offensive plays of 25 yards or more, including a franchise-playoff record 63-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse plus two earlier catches of 33 yards each.

Wilson threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns and scored a passer rating of 149.2, the fifth highest in NFL post-season history. Wilson now has a career passer rating of 109.6 in the playoffs, the highest all-time for any quarterback with at least 150 pass attempts.

The two AFC games were exciting with the highly-favored New England Patriots overcoming two 14-point deficits to subdue the Baltimore Ravens 35-31 as quarterback Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns and scored once on a run.

Baltimore ran up 428 total yards of offense with Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco connecting on four touchdown passes.

New England (13-4) will host Indianapolis (13-5) Sunday at 5:40 p.m. after the Colts stymied Denver’s Peyton Manning and upset the Broncos 24-13 at Mile High Stadium Sunday afternoon. 

Manning’s replacement at Indianapolis, Andrew Luck, was brilliant in  his first road playoff win, connecting on 27-of-43 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns. His offensive line surrendered zero sacks.

The media already is buzzing about Sunday’s game being the last one of Manning’s career and perhaps even the swan song of head coach John Fox, after the Broncos spent a ton of money obtaining free agents defensive end DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward, all three of whom made all-Pro this year. The Broncos have won four straight AFC West titles but keep coming up short in the playoffs, or the “real season” as Fox calls it.

The real season continues for the Colts, who are seven point underdogs to New England for the right to play in the Super Bowl.

I still believe Seattle and New England will earn that right Sunday!!!

KWICKIES…It was great that Houston Astros versatile Craig Biggio finally got into the prestigious Baseball Hall of Fame. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. It’s a shame that Jeff Bagwell didn’t get voted in with Bidge. Unfortunately, I don’t feel the same way about Roger Clemens.

And while on the subject of Halls of Fame, it was great that Port Arthur native Jimmy Johnson was a first-time finalist to the Pro Football Hall of Fame after 16 years. The former Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl winning coach will be considered at the annual selection committee meeting Jan. 31 in Phoenix.

Orange’s Earl Thomas III also must not be too happy about the NFL’s interpretation of Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 1 about maintaining control of the football throughout the process of contacting the ground before regaining control of the football. The rule cost Earl a brilliant interception in Seattle’s 31-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers Saturday night.

A tip of the Korner Kap to Orangefield’s Colby Choate who was instrumental in Saturday’s victory by the Texas All Stars who defeated the Louisiana All Stars 17-10 in overtime of the EBS Border War Football Showcase played at Cowboy Stadium on the McNeese State campus in Lake Charles. The former Bobcat standout scored a touchdown and then made the game-winning interception which ended the overtime period.

The Lamar Cardinals appear to have a much better men’s basketball team for the 2014-15 season than in previous years. First-year head coach Tic Price apparently has revived the Redbirds as they posted their third Southland Conference victory in four league outings, slipping past Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 66-64 on the road Monday night after overpowering Central Arkansas 84-65 Saturday at the Montagne Center on the Lamar Campus in Beaumont. The Big Red shot a sizzling 61 per cent from the field in the first half Saturday night before Price turned the game over to the reserves in the second half. After a slow start the Cardinals currently stand at 9-7 for the season.

JUST BETWEEN US…Ohio State went into Monday night’s national championship college football game with a distinct advantage over Oregon. The next semester had not started so the Buckeyes could practice as much as they wanted or needed to last week. But Oregon’s classes already were in session, so the Ducks were limited to only 20 hours of practice last week as per the NCAA rules. The extra practice time paid off for the Buckeyes who blasted the Ducks 42-20 despite being a six-point  underdog and committing four turnovers. This was the third national championship for Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, who garnered similar honors in 2006 and 2008 at the University of Florida.