One of the Eagles' touchdowns yesterday gave rise to this question.
The quarterback tosses the ball. The receiver is IN the end zone, standing behind the goal line, waiting to receive the ball.
The ball is a little bit high.
So, the receiver jumps up from the end zone grass and catches it WHILE he is airborne.
A player from the defense knocks the receiver forward, WHILE he is still airborne.
The receiver, holding the ball, flies forward so that his body slams down onto the ground on the FIELD side of the goal line. AFTER he is on his stomach, the toe of ONE of his shoes touches the grass on the END ZONE side of the goal line.
Even if we assume that the ball broke the plane of the goal line as the receiver was catching it while airborne, and that the receiver was, himself, flying ABOVE the end zone WHEN he caught the ball in his arms, at no point in time did a STANDING or RUNNING player actually HOLD the ball while BOTH feet were on the ground BEHIND the goal line.
ABSURD EXAGGERATED HYPOTHETICAL #1 TO CONSIDER, AT THE SAME TIME: On a windy day, the thrown ball breaks the plane of the goal line while in the air, but the wind blows it back ACROSS the goal line into the field, where it is caught, and the player is tackled after never crossing the goal line. Touchdown?
ABSURD EXAGGERATED HYPOTHETICAL #2 TO CONSIDER, AT THE SAME TIME: Receiver catches the ball; the ball itself never breaks the plane of the goal line, but as the receiver is tackled but before he hits the ground one toe of the receiver touches the grass in the end zone. Touchdown?
The reason for the hypotheticals is this: I think that in neither case would a ref call a touchdown, because the ref is looking for CONTROL of the ball BEHIND the goal line.
Did that ever happen in the case of the Eagles' touchdown, yesterday?