With the Lions facing third-and-1 at midfield in the fourth quarter today in Dallas, Matthew Stafford threw a pass to tight end Brandon Pettigrew. The pass fell incomplete, but the officials called pass interference, giving the Lions a first down.
And then something bizarre happened: Referee Pete Morelli, who announced the pass interference call, didn’t enforce it. He signaled fourth down and didn’t explain why he was waving off the penalty on the Cowboys.
It was obviously pass interference (and Pettigrew also had his jersey grabbed on the play, so it should have been defensive holding if it weren’t pass interference), but for some reason there was no penalty, and the Lions punted on fourth down.
Former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira, working the game for FOX, said he had never seen anything like it.
“It is clearly pass interference,” Pereira said. “I strongly believe that was not a good pickup of a flag.”
We’ll have to wait until after the game to find out what on earth Morelli was thinking when he called off the penalty. But he gave the Cowboys a huge gift in the fourth quarter of a close playoff game.