It’s rare in sports that we get a moment of genuine, poetic symmetry – so we had to appreciate how brutal the application of the harassment interference rule has affected the New Orleans Saints in consecutive NFL seasons.
I mean, how often do we see true perfection in this life?
Even if this perfection is absolutely awful?
MORE: Pete Carroll, Seahawks fail in 1-yard line – again
Everyone on TV has now seen how horrible the Saints had hosted the 2018 NFC Championship game, when Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman clobber receiver Tommylee Lewis as a pass from Drew Brees on the lawn. It was as obvious an interference offense as it had ever been in the first 99 generations of the league, but it did not go unnoticed by the officials on the field. There was no appeal to the Saints, because PI was not then a matter to be considered.
Now it is, of course. So it was strange that when the Seahawks led late Sunday night to a possible fall victory – which would not only improve their own playoff position but also set the Saints as the seed of NFC 2 – that an obvious interference interception by 49ers linebacker Fred Warner against Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister was able to stand without even a moment’s delay.
The Seahawks were unable to contest the game because it was within the last 2 minutes, when all repetitions were started by those responsible for the performance of the game. It seemed like there was no review at all, because the next game went on so fast. But it turned out to be. The NFL’s senior vice president for Al Riveron’s performance told a pool reporter after the game that the game had been audited, but those who were empowered “didn’t see enough to stop the game”.
There was even more evidence that adding insertion to the list of revised violations was a stigma – but not nearly as big a stigma as the unit’s obvious conclusion that they should not face the rules in any respect.
“What we see is that we see the offensive player come in and start contacting the defensive player – nothing that goes up to the level of a foul that significantly impedes the defender,” Riveron told the team’s reporter. “The defender is then punished. And then there is contact from the defender to the receiver. Again, nothing that reaches the level of a foul based on visual data.”
We haven’t seen such a fascinating work of fiction by writer Donna Tartt who published “The Goldfinch” in 2013.
MORE: The NFL can fix gaffes with a simple pinch, Mike Pereira ays
The Riveron contact describes by Hollister called, in the language of the game, runs its course. This happens in almost every passing game in every NFL game. Hollister does not attempt to oust Warner: he not only encounters resistance and then returns in an attempt to clear himself up for a pass attempt.
The problem develops when Warner does not release Hollister from their encounter. Warner holds his right hand around Hollister’s left bicep and his left shoulder on his right shoulder, knowing that he has a miserable ball flight. When he sees him landing in the end zone, he releases his grip and holds his hands, before he can even regain his balance, his body language shouting: “He’s not guilty! This was never an intervention!”
The league’s indifference to assigning a penalty to this behavior is entirely consistent with its approach to re-examining this particular section of the rulebook. Since December 1, there have been 77 challenges to the interference issues, of which only 15 were reversed. That’s only 19.5 percent rollover.
To compare it with how often other call categories have been overturned, consider that by the end of the 2018 season, the longest ten coaches had their challenges approved at 43.6%. At one point during the season, almost as if it had discouraged coaches from even thinking of using their valuable challenges (and time limits) in interference reviews, 20 of 21 such applications were rejected.
It is madness. Given the recent general decline in the NFL’s organization and the development of a special duplicate review, it is not unfair to say inadequate.
The Seahawks could find a way to get past the chance if they were awarded the ball on the 1-yard line after a PI review. After all, they completed a pass in 1 three games earlier, winning a first down before receiving an incredible late game penalty after breaking the ball and stopping the clock.
This does not justify the behavior or performance of the championship championship service. The Seahawks (11-5) would be 12 inches, with four leftovers available, away from winning the No. 3 seed in the playoffs and a home game against Philadelphia (9-7). Instead, they will travel across the continent and face the Eagles on their court.
The saints would be seed no. 2, with all the rights and privileges conferred on him, including the right and the privilege of sitting on the couch next weekend, while eight less accomplished teams are trying to survive what the NFL calls the Wildcard Round. Instead, he will be in action against the Vikings.
Riveron will be watching. The sky helps us all.