NFL team owners eye expanded video after playoff blunder


Los Angeles (AFP)

Two months after a crucial pass interference penalty went uncalled in an NFL playoff game, team owners will consider expanding video replay review to help avoid another embarrassing officiating error.

The NFL's annual league meeting starts Sunday at Phoenix, Arizona, and among the topics to be discussed at the four-day gathering will be suggested rule changes, including several to expand referee replay reviews.

Los Angeles Rams defender Nickell Robey-Coleman struck New Orleans Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis well before the ball arrived on the play in the final two minutes of the National Conference final.

No penalty was called, forcing the Saints to kick a field goal but leaving the Rams enough time to equalize and later win.

Had the penalty been whistled, the Saints could have run the clock down to the final seconds for a field goal attempt from point-blank range that likely would have sent them to the Super Bowl instead of the Rams.

With that January playoff mishap still stinging, the NFL will consider allowing video reviews for pass interference calls as well as potentially calls for roughing the passer and hits upon defenseless players.

And there are feelings that the league must change something to restore a sense of fairness.

"Our credibility is on the line," NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent told the league website.

"For us to say, 'It's OK.' Nah, that's not where we are. For the commissioner's office and the committee to come out with nothing? You have to."

Owners have avoided making such judgment calls reviewable, but NFL data has shown the majority of officiating errors on key plays are mainly from pass interference calls either from an offensive or defensive player.

Defensive pass interference penalties accounted for 70 percent of fouls with the greatest impact on a chance to win from the 2016 through 2018 seasons. In all, 24 of the 50 greatest mistaken calls were defensive pass interference with offensive pass interference the most often mistakenly uncalled penalty.

"The goal is to correct clear officiating errors on impactful plays," Vincent said.

Owners will consider separate motions regarding video review for pass interference only, or for pass interference, defenseless player and roughing the passer.

- New onside kick rule in talks -

Proposals came after weeks of meetings by the NFL competition committee that began after last month's Super Bowl.

Vincent said there was little support for adding a "sky judge" with limited power to overturn calls or non-calls based on video evidence.

A proposal from the Kansas City Chiefs to ensure each team a possession in over-time games has little backing from the competition committee, with only 20 percent of games stretching beyond the fourth quarter decided on the opening over-time drive.

But the committee has shown interest in a Denver Broncos idea for an onside kick rule change since safety changes have made recovering one's own kickoff much more difficult.

The idea allows teams to forego a kickoff once in the fourth quarter and instead take the ball at their own 35-yard line with the offensive unit in a fourth-down and 15 yards to go situation.

If the offensive unit makes the conversion they keep the ball and continue playing. If not, the defending side takes over.

Any rule change would be implemented for a season and then reviewed.