There had to be some law of nature or human capability that was broken by Justin Jefferson’s catch.
I, like you, have watched it over and over. We probably thought Odell Beckham’s catch would never be topped, except he didn’t have a defender all over him and it wasn’t 4th and 18. And yet when you go over it step by step, there’s a part that just doesn’t quite add up. We’ll get to it.
It was Lisa Simpson, yes it’s always a Simpson, who described football as a “savage ballet.” And there is something savage about this catch and play, while also being one of the more graceful things you’ll ever see on a field or rink, or court. Both Cam Lewis and Jefferson are trying to remove the football from each other like they were trying to remove each other’s heart. The game is on the line after all. Rarely does this kind of balance, touch, and strength, and aggressiveness crash into each other in a moment.
So the nonsensical part. Not that any of us could do any of this stuff, of course. But, Jefferson going up with just his right hand and getting it between Lewis’s hands and on the ball, that all adds up. Still incredible that this catch was even up for debate at this point, because it’s one hand vs. two and Jefferson is at full stretch which isn’t the best way to exert the most amount of strength. By what we know of how humans work, the ball should have been easily removed from his grip. But we’ve seen stuff like this initial stage before.
Now they both come down, both with hands on the ball, and Jefferson is able to curl his hand around the ball, bending his wrist. That’s understandable, too. We can all see it. But this is where they enter a portal into the Bermuda Triangle and are shot back to Buffalo.
First, as they’re falling, the ball turns perpendicular to the ground, with Jefferson’s hand curled around the horizontal axis of it. This is when Lewis’ hands come off, but think about holding a football like this and how it’s predestined to hit the ground. Jefferson has it cradled like Dr. J, but Doc was never being actively tackled to the ground.
They both hit the ground, and the combination of the impact and Jefferson’s force on the ball caused Lewis’ grip to come loose. But it’s here that the loss of Lewis’ opposing force should cause both the ball and Jefferson’s arm/hand to shoot back to his body, like if you let go of one end of a stretched-out rubber band. And yet while all of this is going on, Jefferson is able to curl the ball from perpendicular to parallel to the ground while crashing into it.
But it doesn’t, really. Jefferson’s arm remains outstretched on the turf, the ball in his hand. If he had just balanced the ball on his hand with his hand between the ball and the ground, OK. If his hands are so big and so strong that he’s able to squeeze a football with it and not have landing on the turf jostle the ball in any way… well, OK as well but that’s kind of hard to believe. It’s some combination of the two, or neither. I can’t tell. I can’t Zapruder it. He brings it back to his body after all this, but only after the catch is more than secure.
Something happens, something inexplicable when Lewis’ hands come off the ball. There should have had to have been a balancing act or a protecting of the ball from feeling the impact of the ground, like holding it up above. None of that happened. Some higher force, be it some strange act of god or the superpowers that Jefferson may in fact possess, was exerted. It is truly ineffable.
There will come a time when a fan of another NFC North team, as I am, will joyously frolic in the Vikings blowing yet another epic and unforgettable moment that’s supposed to be a harbinger of a magical season, a season that has a touch of destiny about it. Minneapolis Miracle II, and all that. Or how this catch might not have even been the craziest moment in this game. Or how this could only happen not just to Buffalo, but to a Buffalo team that’s supposed to BE THE CHANGE of the Bills’ entire history.
This catch needs to stand on its own, even for only a little bit, as one of those rare moments where it felt like time bent.