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NFL expands instant replay to include pass interference calls and non-calls

March 27, 2019

NFL owners approved Tuesday a rule allowing coaches and replay officials to challenge pass interference calls and non-calls, an amendment that likely would have changed the outcome of the NFC championship game and sent the New Orleans Saints, not the Los Angeles Rams, to Super Bowl LIII.

The replay expansion, which will undergo a one-year trial, is a complete 180 after the competition committee arrived to the owners meetings in Phoenix this week reluctant to open judgment calls by officials to second-guessing. But, following what was reportedly an emotionally-charged coaches-only meeting Monday night in the aftermath of the NFC title game controversy, a huge philosophical change will be enacted.

The replay expansion approval also includes scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul and an extra point or two-point conversion attempt.

Sean Payton, understandably the most outspoken member on the issue among competition committee members, obviously won’t get a redo for Drew Brees and the Saints after the Nickell Robey-Coleman no-call on Tommylee Lewis helped give the Rams another chance to tie the NFC title game in regulation and ultimately intercept Brees and win in overtime. But Payton’s persistence, and the reported leadership of Bill Belichick and Andy Reid at Monday’s meeting, have helped spur a profound change to the sport.

Sean Payton said Tuesday evening that the coaches voted 32-0 and ownership voted 31-1 for the change, which will allow coaches to challenge within the first 28 minutes of each half before turning it over to the replay booth in the final two minutes, as is customary with the previous replay system.

Will there be unintended consequences, much like the helmet rule early last season? Undoubtedly, perhaps none bigger than the lengthening of games. But the NFL appears to have gotten this one right, and though it might be too little too late for the Saints, credit goes to the league for doing what it can to ensure there isn’t a similar controversy in the future.

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