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NFL's controversial pass interference review won't be making a return

The Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman breaks up a pass

The Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman breaks up a pass intended for the Saints' Tommylee Lewis during the second half of the NFC Championship Game in New Orleans on Jan. 20. Credit: AP/Gerald Herbert

Upon further review, the NFL is throwing out its controversial pass interference replay rule.

The NFL’s experiment with a replay review system for pass interference is ending after only one season. The rule, which was implemented in 2019 and allowed for a coach’s challenge for interference calls or non-calls, wasn’t even placed on the agenda by the league’s competition committee for next month’s owners’ meetings. The meetings are scheduled to be held outside Los Angeles on May 20-21, although there is a chance the owners will meet via conference call if there is a continued shelter-in-place order because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The competition committee will put forward a rule that prevents teams from “manipulating the game clock by committing multiple dead-ball fouls while the clock is running.” In last season’s AFC wild-card game between the Titans and Patriots, Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel purposely had his team take two delay-of-game penalties and ran more than a minute off the clock. Patriots coach Bill Belichick employed a similar tactic against the Jets last season, calling it “a loophole that will be closed and probably should be closed.”

The pass interference replay system came under frequent criticism last season, and coaches often grew frustrated at what they felt was an uneven application of the system. All replay challenges of interference calls and non-calls were reviewed in the league’s New York office. There had to be “clear and obvious visual evidence” of an incorrect call or non-call.

According to the NFL, there were 101 stoppages for instant replay review related to pass interference, with only 24 overturning the on-field ruling.

The rule was adopted on a one-year basis after a controversial no-call in the previous season’s NFC Championship Game went against the Saints and impacted the outcome as the Rams won in overtime.

The other rule that the Competition Committee recommended that owners pass is a safety measure to “expand defenseless player protection to a kickoff or punt returner who is in possession of the ball but who has not had time to avoid or ward off the impending contact of an opponent.”

The Chargers and Ravens jointly put forth a proposal to add a “booth umpire” as an eighth game official. The booth umpire would be positioned above the field of play and would have the authority to call penalties.

The Eagles put forth several rules change proposals, including a plan to make a permanent expansion of automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a penalty. That rule would include any point-after try.

The Eagles also proposed a rule that would provide an alternative to the onside kick that would allow a team trailing in the game to maintain possession after scoring a touchdown or kickoff by attempting to convert a fourth-and-15 play from their own 25-yard line.

The Eagles also proposed that regular-season overtime be 15 minutes, up from the current 10-minute period.

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