Tuesday’s #PFTPM opens with a discussion of something that was widely missed during the cluster of Week One games.
The 49ers-Buccaneers games included during the final minute a non-call of defensive pass interference that was subject to replay review, on a fourth and six play from the San Francisco 47. And the visual evidence contained clear and obvious evidence of 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman significantly hindering Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans as he tried to catch the ball near the goal line.
There was enough evidence of pass interference to trigger an automatic review, but not enough to result in senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron calling defensive pass interference.
It’s unclear why Riveron didn’t see it as interference. Riveron has been citing the throw in Super Bowl LIII to Rams receiver Brandin Cooks that included an arm grab by Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore as an example of what would be/should be called pass interference via replay review. In that case, Cooks still got his left arm through the grab, which made it unclear (in my view) as to whether Cooks was significantly hindered. In the Sherman-Evans interaction, it’s far more clear that Sherman pulled Evans’ arms down, preventing him from catching the ball.
During the replay review, FOX rules analyst Dean Blandino (the previous senior V.P. of officiating) was asked whether he saw interference.
“I did,” Blandino said. “Sherman’s not playing the ball. He has the arm across the arms of the receiver, restricting his ability to make a play on the ball. So, again, there’s a lot of contact both ways, but it’s that last bit where Richard has his arm across Evans’ arms that to me that does appear to be pass interference.”
We’ve asked the league to comment. It’s possible that Riveron was applying the murky know-it-when-you-see-it Hail Mary protocol, which triggers a higher standard for interference, even if that higher standard is articulated, well, nowhere.
But Evans and Sherman weren’t in a cluster of bodies. It was one on one, man to man, and Sherman interfered with Evans. It will be difficult if not impossible to reconcile that play with situations where Riveron drops a flag view replay review, especially if he still believes the Cooks play from Super Bowl LIII was defensive pass interference.
Since the Bucs trailed by 14, it wasn’t an outcome-determinative non-call. But Tampa would have had the ball inside the five, with (in theory) enough time to score, recover an onside kick, and score again. And if it had been a seven-point game at the time of the non-call, we’d have been hearing a lot more about it.