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Pass Interference, Including Non-Calls, Now Reviewable

Blindside blocks also eliminated as owners approve rules changes

In this Jan. 20, 2019, file photo, Los Angeles Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman breaks up a pass intended for New Orleans Saints' Tommylee Lewis during the second half of the NFL football NFC championship game, in New Orleans.
In this Jan. 20, 2019, file photo, Los Angeles Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman breaks up a pass intended for New Orleans Saints' Tommylee Lewis during the second half of the NFL football NFC championship game, in New Orleans.

The NFL can't turn back time and allow the Saints to play in the Super Bowl, but it is hoping a Tuesday rule change will help teams that face similar situations in 2019.

The owners approved a proposal that will allow pass interference, including non-calls, to be subject to replay review. Coaches can throw a challenge flag in the first 28 minutes of each half, and the officials can review pass interference in the final two minutes.

New Orleans was on the wrong end of a blatant missed pass interference call in the NFC Championship game, which allowed the Rams to eventually win the game in overtime. Saints coach Sean Payton, a major proponent of the rule change, said he wasn't worried about personal vindication and was instead focused on improving the game.

"These are fouls the analysts are able to point to and say, 'Hey, they are the most impactful fouls,'" Payton said. "I think we got it right."

The biggest hangup was the idea of adding a flag to a non-call, but competition committee chairman Rich McKay said the owners eventually came around to the idea.

After much conversation, the measure passed by a vote of 31-1. It will be re-evaluated after the season.

"It was messy at times, disruptive, but we believe membership, the decision they made, took us to the right place," said Troy Vincent, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations. "We all saw the issues that were apparent."

The proposal did not seem to have a lot of momentum at the outset of the owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore but enough conversation changed the thinking.

"We had to go around the Grand Canyon and do a few laps around the Southwest here," Payton said. "We really discussed all of those things, and I think it was a combination, really, of the coaches, the membership on the competition committee and our ownership. Our ownership was outstanding in the meeting today. There was a lot of man-hours that went into this. I think the group felt really good."

Payton was given a lot of credit for spearheading the charge, and commissioner Roger Goodell pointed to a simple reason why he believed the rule was adopted.

"I personally believe it's the fact every club and the league wanted to get these plays right," Goodell said.

Payton said it was important to leave the control in the officials' hands in the final two minutes so the spirit of the rule wasn't violated.

"We didn't want games ending with coaches throwing challenges on Hail Marys and all of that," Payton said.

There were six other adapted changes, including the elimination of all blindside blocks, which was done in an effort to keep the players safer.

"The blindside block, it ends careers," Vincent said. "To have that out of the game, that's significant."

Images from the NFL owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix

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