After a botched “no call” potentially cost the New Orleans Saints a NFC Championship earlier this year, there was a big push for pass interference rule reform. The official completely missed a blatant pass interference call late in the game, and there was nothing Sean Payton could do about it. Today, the NFL competition committee unanimously approved a new instant replay rule for the 2019 season.
Explaining the NFL’s New Pass Interference Rule
After the two-minute warning of each half and during overtime, the replay official will stop the game to review any potential pass interference when there is “clear and obvious visual evidence” that interference may have occurred based on the live viewing of the play, or, and this is very important, during initial replays.
The competition committee insists that the stoppage will occur under only the strictest criteria of any play they’d usually review, to prevent frequent or excessive stoppage of play. Just like all other reviews, the play will only be reversed if it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt that a penalty did or didn’t occur.
For the record, they do define pass interference as a play that significantly hinders a player’s opportunity to make a play on the ball. Also, every passing play will be reviewed the same, including end-of-game Hail Mary throws.
Basically, the officials are allowed to review blatant pass interference after either two-minute warning. The NFL seems to be stressing that they should only review blatant pass interference so that the final two minutes of the game don’t last any longer than they need to.
It’ll be interesting to see how often this actually gets called, and beyond that, how often it gets overturned. I suspect that the officials will be told to review at their own discretion, but there would be an emphasis on making sure it doesn’t happen frequently.
While the officials absolutely should be held accountable for bad plays, and a no-call on pass interference can be crucial late in a game, I do worry about how this will change the game. Cornerbacks already have an impossible job, and now they’re under the microscope even more, just because officials can’t do their job properly.
Hopefully this doesn’t happen too often, and that it only really takes place in moments when it’s needed, like the play at the end of the Saints/Rams game. Other rule changes have dramatically changed the way the game is played, so we’ll see how this impacts the future of the NFL.