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Saints-Rams missed call could open door for PI challenges

Bill Belichick has brought it up for a number of years now -- as far back as 2013 -- that NFL coaches should be allowed to challenge anything called in a game by officials, not just the narrow number of plays allowed by the rules now.

After Sunday, after the missed pass interference call on Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman on Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis, that suggestion sure seems like it makes a lot of sense. If you didn't see it, Robey-Coleman quite obviously drove through Lewis before the ball arrived (and admitted to as such later.) A flag, and the Saints would've likely run the clock down to 15 seconds or so before kicking a field goal to take the lead, leaving the Rams little time to tie. As it was, the Saints had to kick a field goal and, with 1:40 left, the Rams had time to kick a tying field goal and later win in overtime.

This isn't about the game itself. The Saints had their chances other than that play to put the Rams away. This is about the concept of reviewing pass interference. Or, from the perspective of Belichick a few years ago, reviewing anything. He spoke more about it at the owners' meetings in 2014.

"I’m not proposing more challenges," he said. "All I’m saying is, as a coach, if you want to challenge a play, I think you should be able to challenge it. ... I think eventually, each year, there’s gonna be some other circumstance, situation that comes up and we’re gonna want to add that."

Like Sunday's mess in New Orleans.

It's never come to fruition. Former Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, who was on the competition committee, admitted in 2015 at the Scouting combine that while he thought it was a "weird recommendation," he had come around to thinking like Belichick.

Belichick has acknowledged there are judgement calls that will be difficult to overturn. That wouldn't seem to be the case in the Saints-Rams situation. That he feels coaches should also only get a certain amount of challenges still remains important. There are issues with it, of course. Challenges already are often at the mercy of replay even before replay -- for someone on the coaching staff to be able to see what happened and then buzz down to the head coach to tell him to throw the challenge flag. Or what happens, in a case like Sunday's, if Sean Payton had already run out of challenges? Is there any way to fix it then?

Pass interference, which often has pretty decent video replay because the players are mostly isolated (as opposed, to say, holding by interior linemen), is a prime candidate to be reviewed. The Canadian Football League already allows replay for pass interference. It'll be interesting to see if this latest incident is a tipping point for the NFL.

There may not be a perfect answer. But the way things turned out, it feels like something needs to be changed.

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis (11) works for a coach against Los Angeles Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman (23) during the second half the NFL football NFC championship game Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in New Orleans. The Rams won 26-23. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

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