When the NFL made pass interference calls subject to review, many bemoaned the change, anticipating increased controversy with a rule intended to reduce it.
This is the reason why.
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur challenged a play that wasn’t flagged on the field in the third quarter of Thursday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
How was this not flagged?
Aaron Rodgers had targeted Marquez Valdes-Scantling on a sideline route on third-and seven on Green Bay’s opening drive of the half.
Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox was covering on the play. Before the ball arrived, he jumped into Valdes-Scantling’s body face first and shoved his left hand into his chin. He didn’t make a play on the ball.
I mean, this can't be anything other than DPI pic.twitter.com/ssTViKFOOt— Gordon McGuinness (@PFF_Gordon) September 27, 2019
There was no flag on the play. Fourth down.
Ruling upheld on review
LaFleur hesitated for a moment before throwing his red challenge flag to review the play for pass interference.
Officials looked at film of the play above and upheld the ruling on the field that there was, indeed, no pass interference.
The official explanation from NFL officials stated “there was no clear and obvious evidence” of interference.
“In #PHIvsGB, Green Bay challenged for pass interference. After review, there was no clear and obvious evidence that Philadelphia #29 significantly hindered the opponent.” - AL pic.twitter.com/Loc0LJp90q— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) September 27, 2019
Controversy over call
The announcement arrived to a cascade of jeers at Lambeau Field and questions on social media and on the Fox broadcast about what exactly constitutes pass interference.
If this non-call didn’t warrant being overturned, then what exactly does?
It’s a sentiment shared by Fox’s rules analyst Mike Pereira.
“It has to be clear and obvious,” Pereira said on the broadcast. “To me, I think it was. You have a defender not playing the ball and in slow motion I think he significantly hinders his ability to make the catch. To me that qualifies in the defensive pass interference under this replay rule, and I would have liked to see that overturned.”
It was a pivotal play in the game. Instead of gaining a first down past midfield, the Packers punted. The Eagles scored a touchdown eight plays later and extended their lead to 27-20.
LaFleur questions officials
LaFleur wasn’t happy about the call after the game.
"I really don't know what pass interference is anymore, so I'll just leave it at that," LaFleur told reporters.
He didn’t leave it that, though.
“It looked clear and obvious to me, but I'm not the one making the decision,” said later.
Another PI challenge
Later in the quarter, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson challenged a no call when Packers cornerback Kevin King hit Alshon Jefferey’s arm before a pass from Carson Wentz arrived.
As in the first play, it looked like a clear case of pass interference. As in the first review, the call on the field was upheld.
The Eagles went on to secure a 34-27 victory.
As long as this rule exists, so too will controversies like Thursday’s.
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