One of the most controversial scenarios occurring in National Football League games was the interpretation of whether a caught ball was ruled a completion or no-catch because the football moved once the receiver hit the ground.

It was an event that prolonged football games nearly 30 minutes because of the lengthy delays for reviewing replays and then letting some bozos in New York City make the final determination after one of the head coaches threw his red flag disputing the call on the field by the game officials.

Invariably, a majority of those red flags were tossed because the pass was either called a catch or no-catch after the ball hit the ground when the receiver was tackled.

Fortunately, for the sake of time, each coach was only allowed two red flag calls, unless he was correct and the decision was overturned in his favor.

This controversial catch rule was the top item recommend by the competition committee and approved 32-0 by the NFL owners at the annual spring meeting held in Orlando last week.

The committee’s proposal was to simplify the controversial catch rule so more people could be on the same page.

A receiver must control the ball, have two feet or another body part in bounds and make a football move.

A football move can be a third step or an extension of the ball. It is no longer an incomplete pass if a receiver extends the football to the ground and it moves.

“We basically took the catch rule and rewrote it,” commented Alberto Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating to the Houston Chronicle last week. “Three components of a catch—control, two feet or another body part in bounds and a football move. We want to take these great catches and make them catches.”

Several important games have been influenced by the no-catch portion of this rule. Perhaps the one that stands out involves Dallas receiver Dez Bryant’s controversial non-catch in a divisional playoff loss to Green Bay in January 2015.

“I think Dez Bryant was the start of us realizing maybe something needs to change,” said Atlanta president Rich McKay, chairman of the competition committee.

Quarterback Tony Romo appeared to have thrown a completion to Bryant at the Packers 1-yard line, but it was ruled incomplete because the ball moved when it hit the ground.

Last season a touchdown pass that was ruled a no-catch involving Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James was particularly impactful because the Steelers wound up losing to New England in a December game that determined home-field advantage for the playoffs.

The Patriots got it and wound up in the Super Bowl while Pittsburgh lost its first post-season game to Jacksonville.

Another rule of great concern involved the helmet which the owners rewrote, making it a 15-yard penalty for any player to lower his head to initiate any hit with the helmet.

“This one technique, we saw so many hits when a player lowered his head and delivered a hit that either hurt himself or the player he was hitting,” McKay pointed out.

While the offender could be disqualified, owners did not call for an automatic ejection on such a play like there is in college football when targeting from a replay review has been confirmed.

Also approved last week was making permanent spotting the ball at the 25-yard line after a touchback on the kickoff, allowing players on injured reserve to be traded and designating a member of the officiating department to instruct on-field game officials to eject a player for a flagrant non-football act when a foul for that act is called on the field.

The New York Jets made a proposal to limit defensive pass interference to 15-yards like the penalty in college, but the competition committee was not in favor of such a change, so the Jets withdrew it.

Several suggestions were tabled and expected to come up at future meetings, beginning in May at the Atlanta owners’ get-together.

KWICKIES…The defending world champion Houston Astros opened the 2018 major league baseball season last week on the road at Arlington to meet the Texas Rangers and returned home Sunday night with a 3-1 record. All four Astros’ starting pitchers (Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Jr. and newcomer Gerrit Cole) all pitched brilliantly with only Keuchel not receiving any help from the offense. American League MVP Jose Altuve picked up where he left off last season by finishing the series with a .563 batting average with shortstop Carlos Correa not far behind with .438. Houston returned home to Minute Maid Park Monday for a home-opening three-game series against Baltimore.

And while on the subject of major league baseball, in games through Sunday there are only four teams still undefeated (Chicago White Sox, Washington, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh) and three winless teams (Detroit, San Diego and Cincinnati).

Closer to home, the Lamar Cardinals baseball and softball teams are both having a hard time during the first half of the season, due mainly to inexperienced rosters. The baseball team, off to one of its worst starts in program history, stands at 6-22 overall and 2-10 in the Southland Conference. The Lady Cards are faring much better, with a 20-16 overall mark and 6-6 in the Southland Conference.

The Houston Rockets, who have already clinched the NBA’s Western Conference with a 62-15 record, saw their offense have its worst performance of the season Sunday at San Antonio as the Spurs whacked them 100-83, halting Houston’s current winning streak at 11 games.

Ian Poulter, the 42-year-old golf pro who hails from outside of London, had only one way to get in the Masters Tournament that begins tomorrow (Thursday) in Augusta—win last weekend’s Houston Open. After leading throughout Sunday’s final round, he found himself on the green of the 72nd hole one shot down to Beau Hossler, a 23-year old former Texas Longhorn star golfer. Both were putting for a birdie with Hossler’s 30-footer barely missing and Poulter carefully watching. Poulter, who turned pro in 1995 (the year Hossler was born) nailed his long birdie to tie the match and then won on the first extra hole when Hossler dunked his second shot into the lake.

JUST BETWEEN US…Houston Astros fans were the victims of a cruel April Fool’s gag that was pulled on us Sunday by Spectrum or Time Warner or whatever their name is this week. Their TV guide had the Astros playing at the Texas Rangers on Fox Southwest (Channel 26) while the Chronicle had the game schedule for FS1 (Channel 400). But there was car racing on 26 and a dog show on 400. I think the only dog involved in this scenario was the cable company.