"I don't know if anybody really knows what the right call is," the Cincinnati Bengals tight end said.
From the press box at M&T Bank Stadium, to the stands just below it, to the fast-twitch fingers of social-media users, debates raged following what nearly proved to be a pivotal moment in the Bengals' 28-24 win. The debates were similar to the ones that played out during last season's NFC playoffs, when Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant was said to have not maintained possession following an apparent clutch catch during a postseason game against Green Bay.
The debates from the playoff game led to changes this offseason in the rulebook language concerning how pass-catchers retain possession as they go to the ground.
Like Bryant's, Eifert's apparent reception with about two minutes left in the first half was ruled incomplete.
On a fourth-and-1 from the Ravens' 2, Eifert caught a pass from quarterback Andy Dalton with his back turned to the end zone. In the same motion, he turned his body and started taking steps as he stretched for the end zone with both hands. Eifert's stretch caused him to break the plane of the goal line with the nose of the football, but the ball came loose as he fell into the defender attempting to tackle him. When the ball hit the defender's foot, it bounced into the end zone as an official signaled a touchdown.
But upon further review, referee Walt Anderson changed the ruling. He said Eifert was "going toward the ground after the catch [and] is still in the process of completing the catch, and even though the ball is extended beyond the goal line, it is knocked loose prior to him hitting the ground.
"The pass is incomplete."
At the time of Anderson's in-stadium announcement, cameras caught a clearly perturbed Marvin Lewis. With the possibility his team could have gone into halftime with a 21-0 lead, the Bengals coach was upset. After the game, however, his mood changed. He agreed with the refs then.
"You have to possess the football and give it to the official. That's what I tell our guys all the time," said Lewis, a member of the NFL's competition committee. "Reaching for the goal line, if you haven't completed the catch, you're not a runner yet. So that's what they deemed: he wasn’t a runner yet. He has to hold onto the football."
NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said virtually the same thing in an online video that was posted to the NFL's website during the ballgame.
"He has to maintain control all the way to the ground," Blandino said. "When you're going to the ground, you have to hold on to it regardless of any reach."
Eifert still isn't so sure.
"I had thought once you break the plane the play's over," Eifert said. "But I guess at the end of the day, like Marvin said, you've got to hang on to the ball.
"Maybe it's a touchdown if I tuck it into my body. I don't know. But it's just one of those things where we get the correct interpretation so we don't do it again."