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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Make pass interference, defensive holding reviewable

Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys argues

Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys argues with side judge Allen Baynes #56 after a penalty was called against Anthony Hitchens #59 of the Dallas Cowboys when he collided with Brandon Pettigrew #87 of the Detroit Lions on a pass play during the second half of their NFC wild-card playoff game at AT&T Stadium on Jan. 4, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. Credit: Getty Images / Sarah Glenn

After one of the worst non-calls in NFL playoff history, a play that may have cost the Lions a chance to win a postseason game for the first time in more than 20 years, it's time the league makes sure something like this never happens again.

All it requires is a simple change, one that the league has resisted all too often but one that can't be ignored any longer.

It's time to make pass interference and defensive holding reviewable under the replay challenge system -- and not just for the playoffs, but for every game.

The Lions were robbed Sunday when -- on a key third-and-1 play from the Dallas 46 with 8:25 left in the game and Detroit ahead 20-17 -- referee Pete Morelli changed a pass-interference call on Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens to no penalty at all. Dallas went on to win, 24-20, to advance to next weekend's NFC divisional round against the Packers.

While there's no telling whether the Lions would have won had Hitchens been called for interference -- or at least holding -- they certainly would have put themselves in position to score at least a field goal. But the point is that the penalty should not have been nullified.

It was such a no-brainer that even NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino openly admitted Monday that defensive holding should have been called on Hitchens and that pass interference on the play was at least "debatable.''

Either way, the play should have resulted in a first down. In fact, the ball temporarily was set at the Cowboys' 25 for the next snap before Morelli changed the call, then compounded matters by failing to explain his reasoning to the sellout crowd at AT&T Stadium and a television audience of millions.

Not until after the game did Morelli say in a pool report that head linesman Jerry Bergman thought there wasn't enough contact to warrant pass interference (back judge Lee Dyer had thrown the flag).

Of course there was enough contact. And even before the pass got to tight end Brandon Pettigrew, Hitchens had grabbed a fistful of Pettigrew's jersey.

Still no call. And still no satisfaction on the Lions' part -- or any fan who believes that the Cowboys should have been penalized.

Had Lions coach Jim Caldwell been allowed to challenge the call and have Morelli -- in concert with Blandino at NFL headquarters in New York -- review the play, all this controversy would have been avoided because the original call would have been upheld.

In a league in which instant replay has corrected so many wrongs by giving officials the ability to carefully examine video evidence, there is no reason not to add these two critical penalties to the list of plays subject to review.

Giants president John Mara, a member of the league's influential Competition Committee, told me Monday that the league will address the possibility of adding pass interference to the menu of reviewable plays.

"I think it will certainly be discussed and debated,'' Mara said.

The committee has resisted adding pass interference and defensive holding to the replay review list because, unlike addressing turnovers with a yes-or-no decision, the penalties involve judgments by officials. But after Sunday's botched decision, there has to be a different approach from Mara and his fellow decision-makers.

"I do think in this day and age,'' Caldwell said, "with modern times where we have technology that can take out the human factor in certain key situations in big games, that we should use that technology to do so.''

He's absolutely right. The latest evidence suggests that change should come as soon as possible.

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