2019 exits under the same sort of cloud of controversy with which it entered: A non-call of pass interference with significant postseason implications.
With 15 seconds left in Sunday night’s game between the 49ers and Seahawks, a throw to the end zone on third and goal from the five seemed to result in early contact by 49ers linebacker Fred Warner on Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister. There were no flags, and there was no stoppage of the game for a review of the ruling on the field.
“Well, we actually looked at it here in New York,” NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron said in a post-game pool report. “We had a great look. NBC gives us a great look of the entire route. So we actually did perform a review, but based on what we saw, we didn’t see enough to stop the game. But we did review it.”
Riveron made it clear that the play was review (but not formally reviewed) for both defensive and offensive pass interference.
“What we see is, we see the offensive player come in and initiate contact on the defensive player — nothing that rises to the level of a foul which significantly hinders the defender, nothing that is clear and obvious through visual evidence, which hinders the defender,” Riveron said. “The defender then braces himself. And there is contact then by the defender on the receiver. Again, nothing which rises to the level of a foul based on visual evidence. Nothing happens that rises to the level of a foul while the ball is in the air before it gets there by either player.”
Although all too often this year Riveron has simply recited the replay-review equivalent of “abracadabra” when defending decisions made or not made via replay review (without regard to what the visual evidence actually shows), his explanation arguably holds some water on this one. Hollister seems to initiate contact, possibly in an effort to draw a flag when Warner engaged.
“I felt him grabbing me,” Hollister told reporters after the game, “but you don’t get every call. I didn’t get that call.”
Hollister didn’t get the call, even though maybe he should have. Which means the Seahawks didn’t get the call, even though maybe they should have. Which means the Packers, who fell from the No. 1 seed to No. 2, and Saints, who fell from No. 2 to No. 3, didn’t get the call. Even though maybe they should have.
Which brings it all back to the Saints. The team that saw their playoff run in 2018 end with a controversial non-call of defensive pass interference now have seen their playoff run in 2019 made considerably more difficult with a controversial non-call of defensive pass interference. The difference this time around is that the play was less egregious, but that the device for potentially fixing any errors perhaps was not fully and completely utilized.