Pass Interference: A penalty that should be challenged

New rule allows coaches to overturn penalty calls


Photo by Washington Post

DeAndre Hopkins tries to catch a ball thrown for a touchdown, but is contacted before possession of the ball.

Cody Bennett, Sports Director | STRIV Executive Producer

The game is on the line, the opposing team charges down the field, trying to score that last second miracle for a win for their team and fans. The quarterback snaps the ball and drops back, he sees an open receiver in the endzone and throws the ball. The defender rolls to the receiver and made contact right as he touched the ball, a clean hit. All the sudden, a bright yellow flag lands on the turf, the referee calls a penalty on the “early” hit. Both sidelines erupt in noise, one extremely happy, one extremely angry. A penalty like that changes the pace and tide of the game and now, coaches can challenge those calls.

After the outrageous call at the Texans vs. Ravens game on Nov. 17, coaches and fans alike lobbied for a rule change for coaches to challenge the interference calls. The coaches already had a red challenge flag in their pants pocket that could challenge fumbles, ball spots and everything that the referees messed up. But pass interference now falls in that category of challenging.  

Pass interference is defined as a penalty when a player impedes another player’s ability to catch a downfield pass prior to the ball’s arrival. Therefore any major contact to either person can be called for 15 yards and a fresh set of downs. Due to the difficulty, or lack thereof, judging how much contact is produced before the ball arrives, makes me wonder why this rule wasn’t in effect earlier. 

The coach that is challenging a call can throw their red challenge flag on the field, the referees go onto the sideline and review the play and the contact. They put on a headset and rule analysts in New York talk to them and tell them which calls are correct, which most of the time they’re correct, but in certain times like the Texans vs. Ravens game is why we need a challenge flag for interference.

In the first quarter of Week 11’s matchup between the two teams, DeAndre Hopkins was open for a touchdown pass. Marlon Humphrey was the Ravens player covering Hopkins, due to the contact pretty much tackling Hopkins before the ball was close or touched by the receiver, the referees threw a flag. Seemed like an obvious pass interference call, but the refs called no foul on the play. The challenge flag was thrown and New York reviewed the call. They came back with no pass interference. The people took to Twitter and everywhere they could get their voices heard for a reform or people fired.

A football fan would think with 249 pass interference penalties in the 2018 season alone, the NFL would make new rules to crack down on the calls that ruin the games and change momentum. Almost 4300 yards were taken away from defensive teams because of pass interference, if the NFL could limit those bad calls, the yards taken away would not be as near as that high. 

Due to the new rule changes and allowing coaches to challenge these types of plays, games without these types of bad calls will actually go the way of the team that deserves to win.