What Is A Contested Catch In Football?

A contested catch in football refers to a reception in which a defender was close enough to contest the pass at the catch point. In other words, a contested-catch occurs when the receiver wins a fight for the ball.

When receivers run routes down the field the purpose is to achieve separation from the defenders covering them. Though on some occasions the quarterback will decide to throw the ball to the wide receiver with a defensive back in the area.

If the defender and the receiver both go for the ball this is considered a contested-catch situation. If the receiver is able to come down with the ball and maintain possession then he has completed a contested catch.

What Is Contested Catch Rate?

Contested catch rate is a statistic that measures a receiver’s ability to catch passes with defenders in their immediate area.

To determine the contested catch rate they take the total number of contested catches made and divide that by the number of contested catches attempted.

This will give you a percentage of the contested catches that are made by the wide receiver.

Key Traits For Making Contested Catches

Now that you understand what a contested-catch is in football it is time to break down what traits make these plays possible. Below we will cover some of the main factors that make receivers great at hauling in these difficult passes.

Strong Hands

Arguably the biggest factor in winning contested catches in football is having strong hands. Defensive backs in the NFL are incredibly skilled at knocking the ball out of a player’s hands.

This means when making a catch with a defender nearby there is a good chance they are going to hit the ball, and your hands before the catch is determined to be complete.

This means that NFL receivers need to have the hand strength to hold the ball secure while it is being hit by defenders.

This is not something that can be taught but rather a natural strength that players either have or don’t.

Vertical Jump

The height of a player’s vertical jump is another factor that plays into their ability to fight for catches.

Oftentimes on these plays, the receiver is going to have to high point the ball. high pointing the ball means they will catch the ball at the peak of their jump.

Players that have high vertical jumps are going to succeed at contested catches for this reason.

Though the defender may be nearby and making contact they will rarely be able to outjump an NFL-caliber receiver.

If a player has a good vertical jump and can time it well this will greatly help their ability to bring in catches with defenders nearby.


One more trait that plays into the ability to secure contested catches is being able to adjust your body.

Oftentimes, especially on deep throws, the ball will not be placed where the receiver and defensive back are expecting it.

Instead, the players will have to adjust to the ball while it is in the air in order to come down with the catch.

Some larger and less agile players are unable to make these adjustments in order to track the ball down.

But those receivers who exceed at jump balls have a knack for adjusting to these passes perfectly. Players that excel at these contested catches often moss defensive players.

The term mossed in football refers to physically beating out your opponent for a tough catch.

Great contested ball receivers can adjust to the new path of the ball and put themselves into the ideal position to make the catch.

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