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Mike Pereira shines in spotlight as Fox's NFL rules analyst

Fox NFL rules analyst Mike Pereira is in

Fox NFL rules analyst Mike Pereira is in the spotlight when any controversial calls are made during a game. Credit: Lily Rosales for Fox Sprots.

Mike Pereira made a wish of sorts on WFAN last Monday while discussing the controversial officiating decision that helped the Cowboys beat the Lions in a wild-card playoff game.

"Monday of next week, hopefully people come out of that weekend not looking for me, but looking for some other people to talk about the great games and talk about the players or the coaches and not the officials," Pereira said.

Dream on.

"I did not get my wish," the Fox rules analyst said on another Monday when America's TV Ref found himself a popular interview subject. "No, I did not get my wish."

This time the Cowboys found themselves on the wrong end of a pivotal ruling -- a non-reception by Dez Bryant against the Packers that for most of human history would have been defined as a man successfully catching an object.

More about that play later, assuming you are not already tired of it by now.

First, the sports media lesson reinforced Sunday was that as brilliant as Fox's decision to hire Pereira in 2010 was, it only has grown more so over time.

As the use of replay to overanalyze minutiae continues to expand, so has the need for experts to explain what is going on.

And his level of knowledge is such that game and studio analysts increasingly defer to him on rules questions, a welcome development after decades of misinformed opinions from former players and coaches.

"Since 2010, there are more plays that were reviewable than there were originally, and I think going forward, there will be even more that are reviewable," Pereira said.

"So it gives more value to this role . . . that you can at least come on and say this is what they're looking at."

The first hint of what was to come came in Week 1 of 2010, Pereira's first regular-season Sunday on the job, when he had to explain why a seemingly inexplicable incompletion to the Lions' Calvin Johnson had been ruled that way.

"I had the biggest call that I ever had to deal with, and some would say that solidified my role," he said.

Five seasons later, Bryant's attempted catch in Sunday's NFC divisional playoff game was ruled incomplete for similar reasons, with the same referee, Gene Steratore, presiding. As a result, the Cowboys did not get the ball at the Green Bay 1-yard line, and the Packers ended up with a 26-21 victory.

As usual, Pereira correctly anticipated the original decision would be overturned -- whether or not he likes the rule.

As a former official and a former director of officials for the league, Pereira always has walked a fine line. He said he found it difficult when he began to disagree with friends and former colleagues.

But over time they told him his critiques did not bother them as much as others' because those critiques were informed by his knowledge both of the demands of the job and of the rules.

"I made the commitment to them I was never going to go overboard," Pereira said. "I wasn't going to say anything was a bad call. I was going to try to avoid the words bad, blown, horrible, awful, those types of piling-on words."

Like any successful TV personality, Pereira makes the job look easier than it is, as other networks have learned in trying to replicate what he and Fox have done.

CBS' Mike Carey, a former referee, has had a rocky transition to TV this season. Pereira said he saw some of the Twitter-bashing of Carey's work late Sunday afternoon and found it so upsetting that he "flicked it off quickly."

Pereira said that after Super Bowl XL, when the Steelers beat the Seahawks with the help of several controversial calls, he "left right after the game and went to Costa Rica and nobody could find me."

Even though he no longer is responsible for the officials' performance, he joked that if there is more controversy in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, "I'm thinking about going from Seattle to Anchorage or something and hanging out there next Monday. But I think the chances of going 3-for-3 are rare."

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