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Bad call in Cowboys-Rams highlights more problems with PI replay review

Mike Florio explains how the new pass interference replay review is creating controversy, but thinks he may have a solution.

If you’re concerned about the manner in which replay review for pass interference calls and non-calls will affect the NFL’s 100th season, there’s a chance you’re not nearly concerned enough.

Last night’s Cowboys-Rams game included in the final four minutes of clock time a pass interference replay challenge that took nearly four minutes to resolve. And they spent all that time only to get it wrong.

The Rams had the ball on their own 27, third and 10. Receiver Alex Bachman ran what appeared to be a 10-yard button hook. He extended an arm into Cowboys defensive back Donovan Olumba in an apparent effort to create separation so that he could come back to the ball. The contact happened before the pass was thrown. Olumba engaged Bachman, and the pair didn’t separate until after the ball left the quarterback’s hand.

Olumba knocked the ball away as it arrived. Fourth down Rams.

Rams coach Sean McVay threw the challenge flag, smartly taking full advantage of the opportunity to activate the replay process for pass interference calls and non-calls during preseason games. (McVay explained that this was the goal to reporters after the game.) And then, after more than three minutes and forty seconds from the end of the play, referee John Hussey announced that the ruling on the field had been changed to defensive pass inteference.

It was an astoundingly bad outcome. Bachman, not Olumba, clearly and obviously initiated contact. (Indeed, the Cowboys broadcasters believed that Bachman, not Olumba, would be called for interference.) And even if there had been clear and obvious evidence that Olumba had done anything to significantly hinder Bachman, it’s definitely not clear and obvious that Olumba significant hindered Bachman after the pass was thrown.

If Olumba had hindered Bachman before the ball was thrown, the foul would have been illegal contact. Which is not subject to replay reivew.

Given that the ruling on the field was no foul by either team, the supposedly very high bar for calling interference via replay review should have resulted in a decision not to change the ruling on the field, especially as it relates to Olumba.

So, yes, be concerned about what may happen when the real games start in two weeks and four days. And if you’re already concerned, be more concerned. After two months of sending signals that the league would simply regard the outcome of the Rams-Saints NFC Championship as a 100-year aberration, the league has grossly overreacted, making NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron by far the most powerful person in all of football, able to grant or rescind large chunks of field position in any and every game with no apparent oversight or accountability.

As previously suggested, the ultimate responsibility for this falls not on Riveron but on the Commissioner. Hopefully, the Commissioner is paying attention to this. Hopefully, he’s willing to do something about it before the games that count get started.