NFL owners may be ready to take a significant step in changing the instant replay system by including pass-interference penalties for the first time.
The NFL’s influential Competition Committee has proposed a rule change — initially for the 2019 season — to expand reviewable plays to include pass-interference penalties. The committee also proposes to allow automatic replay reviews that include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a penalty.
The committee proposes to expand replay to include roughing-the-passer penalties and unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless position.
Any rules change requires the approval of 24 of the league’s 32 owners, and although it is uncertain whether the proposals will be adopted, it is the first time the competition committee has come up with the changes.
The league experienced withering criticism during last season’s NFC Championship Game between the Saints and Rams, when an obvious pass-interference penalty on the Rams deep in New Orleans territory late in the fourth quarter was not called and forced the Saints to attempt a field goal. The Saints went up 23-20 on the field goal, but the Rams tied it near the end of regulation and won it in overtime, 26-23, to advance to the Super Bowl.
Although the non-call wouldn’t be subject to review under the proposed replay changes, it is conceivable that officials would be more willing to call penalties in similar situations to potentially have the plays subject to review and avoid the kind of controversy ignited during the Saints-Rams game.