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NFL’s VP of Officiating Addresses Lions No-Call Controversy

Making an appearance on Around the NFL on Monday, the NFL’s Vice President of Officiating, Dean Blandino, addressed the controversial sequence of events that occurred late in the fourth quarter of the Detroit Lions’ 24-20 playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

On the event in question, Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hutchins was originally whistled for a pass interference penalty against tight end Brandon Pettigrew. However, the penalty was overturned late in the process, only after referee Pete Morelli had already announce the transgression. The play:

Blandino, walking through footage of the play as he spoke, explained:

“The defender, he’s not playing the ball… But that’s not pass interference by itself. You can face guard in the NFL. It is a foul in college. But it’s not a foul in the NFL.”

“Was there significant contact before the ball arrived that prevented Pettigrew from making the catch? I think it’s a tight judgment call. There’s a left hand on the shoulder, does that materially restrict the receiver’s ability to make the catch? One official, the back judge felt it was. The head linesmen had a different perspective. They got in, they talked about it as the referee was making his announcement and we would prefer that they get together before the initial announcement. “

While Blandino felt the pass interference call may have been up for debate, there was another aspect to the play he did not feel was open to interpretation. Freezing the video early in the sequence, Blandino continued.

“There is a jersey grab. And when you see the jersey grab before the ball is thrown, that’s defensive holding. So had the officials recognized that, we should have had a foul down for that infraction.”

Multiple other elements of the play were also addressed. First, on the possible facemask penalty committed by Pettigrew, Blandino did not feel there was enough of an interaction to warrant a call. “I felt that was minimal contact.”

The NFL’s Vice President of Officiating did not feel Brandon Pettigrew’s contact with the facemask of linebacker Anthony Hutchins was significant enough to warrant a penalty.

Then, regarding Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant’s helmet-less confrontation with an official after the play:

“It’s not an automatic. The helmet removal rule only applies to a player who is in the game,” said Blandino. “It very well could have (been considered confronting an official) but in the official’s view, they felt that it wasn’t. They gave him some leeway but we certainly would have supported a flag there.

“It’s not an automatic penalty. There’s some discretion. The officials felt it didn’t warrant a penalty.”

Blandino’s full video breakdown can be seen here.

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