NFL Rule Change Will Let Teams Challenge Blown Pass Interference Calls

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Tuesday’s annual meeting of the National Football League owners and coaches yielded a rule change that has likely been on the mind of every New Orleans Saints fans since last years’ playoffs — coaches will now be able to challenge missed pass interference calls. According to a report in SBNation, the rule change will be officially adopted by the league in the upcoming season for a one-season trial run. If all goes well, it can be made permanent at next spring’s meeting.

The change is sure to provide cold comfort to Saints fans who are still smarting over the blatant pass interference foul committed by the Los Angeles Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman on the Saints’ Tommylee Lewis as the 2019 NFC title game regulation clock was winding down. Had the correct call been made in the game’s waning minutes – or, if the new rule had previously been in place and the Saints had been able to challenge the call and win – the Saints would have ended up with the ball on the Rams one-yard line with a fresh set of downs. Oddsmakers said at the time that given those circumstances the Saints would have had a 98 percent chance of winning the game and the team’s second trip to the Super Bowl.

Saints coach Sean Payton disputes non-call.
Featured image credit: Chris GraythenGetty Images

The new rule will work as with any other coaches’ challenge — coaches will be able to throw their red challenge flag and prompt an officials’ review of the play in question if they believe the refs either missed a pass interference call that should have been made, or called pass interference when the play was, in fact, a clean one. Each team will be granted two challenges per game, and if they win both challenges, they will get a third. If a team calls for a review that isn’t overturned by the officials, they will be charged a timeout, and if they have no timeouts remaining in a given half, they will be unable to call for a review.

“I think it’s important that this isn’t going to be perfect always,” said Saints head coach Sean Payton, who reportedly lobbied hard for the reform. “We know that. The mere shape of the ball tells you it’s not going to bounce the same way. But these are fouls that the analysts are able to tell us they’re the most impactful fouls. I think we got it right.”

“There was an owe-it-to-the-game responsibility.”

This will be the first rule adopted by the NFL that will make penalties reviewable, a change that came after hours of debate spearheaded by Bill Belichick and Andy Reid. It passed the owner’s vote 31-1, with only Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown voting against.