01/07/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak
Everybody has been talking about it. The penalty, or non penalty, in the Dallas Cowboys playoff win over Detroit last weekend. If you didn't see it or hear about it, Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens was flagged for pass interference against Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew. But after announcing the penalty, the officials decided to pick up the flag and rule it not to be an infraction. Dallas was trailing at the time, and the controversial play came on 3rd down and 1 for the Lions, who would have gotten an automatic first down with the penalty. Dallas ultimately went on to win the game.
Now I'm not one to believe the refs were the reason Detroit lost. Even if it was a blown call, the refs didn't let the Cowboys drive for the winning touchdown. The Lions defense did. If they would've got a stop, this would be irrelevant now. The refs didn't get stopped by Dallas with a chance to win the game with under two minutes left. The Lions offense did. They had a chance to score, but failed to. And the refs surely didn't blow a 13 point lead...that's all on the Lions.
But did that call, or non call, effect the momentum at that time? Absolutely it did. If Detroit gets a first down there, maybe it would've been different. But momentum was already going the Cowboys way since they had scored the only 10 points of the 2nd half to get back into the game. All of the above is speculation, but here's the fact of the matter. The officials got the call wrong.
NFL head of officials Dean Blandino said the pass interference call was debatable, but that holding should've been called against Hitchens, which would've been a five yard penalty and an automatic first down. I've heard some Cowboys fans and others say that Pettigrew grabbed Hitchens and didn't allow him to turn around to defend the pass heading their way. OK, lets say that's true.. Then it should have been called holding on both players, which would've resulted in replaying the down, which would've given the Lions a second chance on 3rd down and a yard to go.
Maybe this controversy is a good thing though? Maybe it's time the NFL takes a look at using replay on penalties called in certain situation. I'm not saying that every call needs to be reviewed, not unless you want games to last 3 days instead of 3 hours. But in a critical situation, maybe it should be reviewed just like all scoring plays are reviewed? Or perhaps even better, each coach is given the opportunity to challenge one penalty call per game. If he gets it right, he gets the opportunity for a second. That way is something like this does occur, the Lions coach calls for a challenge, and the officials get the call right.
I understand that there will always be human error in the officiating of any sport. Plays happen fast and the official has to make a split second judgment on a call. Having a replay in the case of penalty calls wouldn't be something that makes the officials look bad, I mean everyone already thinks the refs suck anyway, right? It would be something that would help them make sure they get the call right and don't really negatively effect the outcome of a game.
And it's a way to put these conspiracy situations away once and for all. Does anybody really believe Jerry Jones paid off the officials? C'mon now, the NFL is better than that and any real sports fan knows it. Now we just need an explanation as to why Blandino was on the Cowboys party bus in August? But that's a conspiracy for another time.
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