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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Playoffs a reminder NFL needs to allow penalties to be challenged

By Matthew Coller

Seattle Seahawks punt returner Devin Hester appeared to have set his team up to take full control against the Atlanta Falcons, then a yellow flag hit the turf.

Hester returned a punt 80 yards to put the Seahawks at the Falcons’ 7-yard line. The play was called back due to holding, then two snaps later Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson was stepped on by a lineman and went down for a safety.

The Seahawks fell apart after that play and the Falcons advanced to the NFL title game.

While the holding call on Hester’s punt return was clearly correct, it was the perfect example of how much a penalty can swing a result – something the Minnesota Vikings can relate to quite well. And the perfect example of a call that deserves to be reviewable. Imagine if it had been a phantom hold that resulted in Seattle losing 80 yards.

Yet for whatever reason, the NFL has not yet adopted rules to allow challenges on penalties.

Missed calls are always met with responses from the league that referees are well trained and graded, but not perfect. A shrug, more or less, at teams whose outcomes were greatly affected.

The Vikings are at home thinking about all the things that went wrong in 2016 and how they dropped from 5-0 to 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Their focus is more likely to be on their offensive output and mistakes at key times than it is the costly – and questionable – flags in important situations, but there was at least one unreviewable no-call that could have altered their playoff status.

On the final play of the Vikings’ loss to the Dallas Cowboys, quarterback Sam Bradford was clearly hit in the facemask by the hand of a Dallas defender on a two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game at 17.

Bradford asked the referee why the flag wasn’t thrown.

“He told me I wasn’t hit,” Bradford said, bamboozled.

A review would have easily reversed the erroneous call and given the Vikings another shot.

There are others. Receiver Stefon Diggs was tackled on a pass against the Eagles that would have put the Vikings in the red zone. Diggs and Vikings No. 2 receiver Adam Thielen were the beneficiaries of just two pass interference calls this year. How is it possible that a team’s top two receivers could have only been interfered with twice? On the other hand, Vikings corner Captain Munnerlyn did not register a DPI all year, which also seems dubious.

Like Hester’s return, some pass interference calls can be worth more half the field. ESPN’s Kevin Seifert points out that there have been eight interference calls that gave the benefitting team 53 or more yards, including one this season that gave the Packers 66 yards. The average lost yards due to interference is more than 15 yards. Why can they review a bad spot that costs a team six inches but not a play that costs then 66 yards?

You might say: Why not adopt college football’s interference rules and make pass interference a 10-yard penalty? Simple: Speed. Receivers and cornerbacks are almost always in close quarters down the field and corners could just clobber the potential pass catcher to avoid giving up a big play. The better solution is allowing it to be challenged.

You might say: Pass interference is too much of a judgement call. But that’s not really true. They just say that because they make mistakes on it so often. Interference is so clearly defined in the NFL rulebook that it takes up nearly 1,000 words. If the referees are indeed as wonderfully trained as the league claims, they would be able to tell if they’ve made a miscue when getting a second look at interference.

Another concern is that the league will end up having more dead time during broadcasts, but if coaches could still only use their two given challenges, they would have to pick their spots wisely and it wouldn’t dramatically alter time of game.

The idea of making penalties reviewable has been around for awhile. In 2013, the New England Patriots called for the competition committee to consider allowing challenges after losing on a non-interference call in a game against the Carolina Panthers. In February 2015, there were 12 different proposals made to change instant replay. None made their way into action.

Apparently none of them were good enough for the committee. Maybe it will take a mistaken interference call in the Super Bowl for the league to make the right call on reviewable penalties.

The post Playoffs a reminder NFL needs to allow penalties to be challenged appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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