NFL says pass interference non-calls can be reviewed next season

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 20: Tommylee Lewis #11 of the New Orleans Saints drops a pass broken up by Nickell Robey-Coleman #23 of the Los Angeles Rams during the fourth quarter in the NFC Championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 20, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

It’s too late to help New Orleans, but two months after a controversial non-call was key in keeping the Saints from the Super Bowl, the NFL says pass interference calls — and non-calls — can be reviewed next season.

The rule is for one season and would become permanent if approved at next year’s meeting.

Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, chairman of the eight-member committee that recommends new rules, said there was a lot of discussion to get to a place where the full ownership group would vote for the change.

“We worked our way there. We definitely had resistance going in,” he said.

It will be the first time in league history that an official not at the stadium will be able to call a penalty.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said people compromised on long-held views.

“They want to get the system right,” he said. He added later, “We should do that. We have the ability to do that. It won’t be perfect.”

Goodell said he felt strongly about making the change.

Coaches get two challenges per game (three if the first two are upheld). In the final two minutes of the half, the instant replay officials have the option to review the play.

Saints coach Sean Payton said, “We’re trying to address the two fouls (offensive pass interference and defensive pass interference) that most impact games.”

He said to forget the final minutes of the NFC Championship game where no flag was thrown despite Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman smashing into Tommylee Lewis before the Saints receiver had a chance to catch a pass that would have set up New Orleans deep in Rams territory.

Calls and non-calls, both non-reviewable, had affected other games, he said.

“I think everyone was excited that we arrived at a good answer,” he said, according to video on the Saints Twitter feed.

McKay said of the 50 most impactful incorrect calls, 50% were defensive pass interference. Offensive pass interference was the most prevalent impactful non-call, he said. He did not specify whether the analytics were done over one season.

The rule passed 31-1, seven more votes than required for approval.

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