NFL tweaks pass interference replay rules to make inside 2 minutes, OT subject to ‘stricter criteria’

The NFL’s competition committee sent some revisions Thursday to the instant replay review protocol for pass interference, indicating a “stricter criteria” for disputed plays inside of the two-minute warning and overtime.

“After the two-minute warning of each half and during overtime, the Replay Official will stop the game to initiate a review for pass interference under stricter criteria than for other reviewable plays to prevent excessive game stoppages,” the league said in a statement posted to the Twitter account of NFL Football Operations.

The competition committee’s announcement on Thursday alters a measure approved during the spring league meetings in May that allowed coaches to challenge pass interference calls inside the two-minute warning of each half and throughout overtime.

“A decision on the field will only be reversed when there is ‘clear and obvious visual evidence’ that warrants a change,” the statement continued.

The statement also said that NFL teams will have “one week to provide additional feedback before the Competition Committee communicates the final rule” on pass interference reviews.

The move to change the way pass interference is enforced was spurred by a controversial non-call during the NFC Championship Game between the Saints and the Rams that would have given New Orleans a prime opportunity to win the game in the closing seconds. The play in question came late in the fourth quarter when Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman initiated contact with Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis apparently well before the ball arrived.

The Rams eventually won the game and went on to face the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII, where they lost, 13-3.

At the NFL annual meeting, the league’s ownership approved to expand reviewable plays to include pass interference. The expansion was approved for only one season, however, with the intent to revisit the efficacy of the rule the following offseason.

Then, NFL officiating staff visited each of the 32 teams in April to review the rule changes regarding pass interference, while gathering feedback from coaching staffs.

Thursday’s announcement also included a revision to the Hail Mary play, in which there’s typically more contact on attempted passes than normal.

“The ‘Hail Mary’ play will be reviewed in replay consistent with the guidelines for officiating the play on the field,” the statement said.

Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.

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