Thanks to the horrible missed call in the NFC Championship Game that helped send the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl over the New Orleans Saints, we’re finally going to see pass interference as a reviewable play in the upcoming NFL season.
The league owners approved rule changes in March, and the Competition Committee has since made everything official as of this week. One notable change in recent months is that coaches actually won’t be able to challenge PI calls or non-calls. Instead, these reviews are only going to be initiated by the replay booth after the two-minute warnings in each half, and all of overtime.
According to the final rule, pass interference reviews after the two-minute warning of each half and during overtime will be initiated by the replay official. The replay official will only stop the game when there is “clear and obvious visual evidence” that a pass interference penalty may or may not have occurred.
In an effort to limit excessive stoppages, any stoppage will occur under stricter criteria than other reviewable plays. Calls will only be reversed based on “clear and obvious visual evidence” that an incorrect call was made, which is the same standard for all reviews.
Another key point is that “Hail Mary” throws usually have a lot more leeway for... aggressive defending or pushing off. Jimmy Graham did notably have a game-winning touchdown on a Hail Mary taken away in 2014 in the New Orleans Saints’ overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers, and the Cleveland Browns lost a game in 2009 when they were flagged for a Hail Mary DPI against the Detroit Lions (Detroit scored on the untimed down). Otherwise, Hail Mary passes are usually free-for-alls. According to the NFL, they will check for possible PI “in replay consistent with the guidelines for officiating the play on the field.”
Again, this is only for the 2019 season, and with preseason starting in just six weeks, perhaps we’ll see these new rules in action before the regular season gets underway.