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Acrobatic one-handed catches used to be the rarefied domain of superstars such as Jerry Rice and Randy Moss. This season, though, everyone has been getting into the act. Moss's Week 2 one-hander over Darrelle Revis was quickly followed by a bevy of hard-to-believe grabs, including Chiefs rookie tight end Tony Moeaki's full-extension one-handed touchdown in Week 3, Rams wideout Danny Amendola's off-balance snare of a throw that was already past him in Week 4, Colts receiver Pierre Garçon's backhanded stab in Week 6 and San Diego backup tight end Randy McMichael's nifty TD snag on Sunday. Even the defense has gotten into the act: Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall picked a Jay Cutler pass out of the air with one hand and returned it for a 92-yard TD in Week 7.
Each of those players—Hall included—had help: They all were wearing receivers' gloves, which these days are sticky enough to make balls thrown at NFL velocity stop and rest safely in just one hand.
A confident lot, receivers usually claim athleticism is behind their circus catches, but most pass catchers admit gloves make a difference. "I don't think I could have made that catch without them on," says Amendola. "You have to bring the ball down and cradle it, and that's not easy with one hand. [Gloves] stop the rotation of the ball, making it easier to control."
Hall of Famer James Lofton, who had his share of highlight-worthy catches in his 15-year career, has noticed the uptick in stickiness. "Now one-handed catches are almost routine," Lofton says. "Do I think the gloves help? Definitely. But it's not just that. Guys are playing football 10 months a year and are really on top of their game."
Amendola wears Nike gloves, while Moss wears Cutters, the brainchild of Jeff Beraznik. While playing college ball in Canada, Beraznik saw an opposing player snagging punts with one hand using sticky glass-cutting gloves. Those industrial work model eventually morphed into a football glove whose palm and fingers are coated with a rubbery substance Cutters calls C-TACK. "Obviously someone like Moss is going to be spectacular no matter what he puts on his hands," says Beraznik. "We just try to give them that little edge."
As much as the new gloves help, Lofton says they're nothing compared with Stickum, the gluey adhesive that was banned by the NFL in 1981. "That was a whole other level," Lofton says. "If you dropped the ball wearing Stickum, you were doing something wrong. Gloves aren't like Stickum, but they do give players extra confidence. They're like an aluminum bat in baseball—players think they can hit a home run every time up with an aluminum bat."
Of course, some receivers say they don't need the physical or mental edge that gloves offer. Asked why he wears them, Bengals wideout Chad Ochocinco says he uses them as a fashion accessory—and "to protect my nails."
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