Much has been said, by PFT and others, about the missed pass interference penalty on Atlanta’s final play from scrimmage at Seattle on Sunday. Not as much said about the missed penalty at the beginning of that same play.
Falcons receiver Julio Jones gave Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman a hard slap to the head at the line of scrimmage.
As one source with knowledge of the league’s application of the rules told PFT, the contact likely wasn’t sufficiently violent to constitute unnecessary roughness, but at a minimum Jones should have been called for illegal use of hands/hands to the face.
Look at Sherman’s reaction to the maneuver, which Jones used to get a clear advantage at the line of scrimmage. Sherman stumbles to the left and then immediately scrambles to recover. By the time the ball was in the air and descending, Sherman was trying to catch up. (It’s fairly amazing that Sherman made up the ground, given the head start Jones acquired via the head slap.)
And that’s the primary caveat to making Sherman’s ultimate maneuver once he caught up with Jones subject to replay review. How can that portion of the play be reviewed if the maneuver by Jones at the beginning of the play isn’t?
Pass defense doesn’t happen in a flash at the tail end of a play. It occurs from the snap of the ball until its arrival at the intended receiver. If one player’s actions are going to be scrutinized at the conclusion of the play, the other player’s actions should at least be considered at every point before that.
Which of course complicates any effort to subject pass interference to replay review.
That doesn’t mean the NFL should shrug and stick with the status quo. At a time when the league hopes to figure out why fewer people are watching games on TV, results that seem to be tainted or unfair won’t bring them back.