Saints coach Sean Payton was furious about a blindside block call that went against his team on Thursday Night Football, but after the game he could say little about it.
Payton said he got no explanation for the penalty and wasn’t sure why it was called.
“I’m not real familiar with that type of block on that situation. It’s unfamiliar,” Payton said.
Payton was a member of the league’s competition committee when the NFL expanded the blindside block rule in 2019, so he surely knows the rule. That he says he’s not familiar with the call strongly suggests that he thinks the call was contrary to the NFL rules, but he isn’t coming right out and saying so to avoid getting fined.
Since the blindside block rule was expanded, a lot of hits that don’t seem at first to fit the definition of “blindside” have become penalties. But if the block Saints tight end Garrett Griffin made on Cowboys defensive back Jayron Kearse qualifies as an illegal blindside block, that should have been explained to Payton.
It also should be explained to NFL fans. The FOX broadcast didn’t do a great job with the call, first not even showing referee Brad Rogers announce the penalty, and then never bringing former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira on to discuss the call. Analyst Troy Aikman blasted the call and said Pereira agreed with him that it was a bad call, but Pereira himself never said a word about it, even though he was on the broadcast.
The NFL Officiating department also didn’t explain the call. Although the @NFLOfficiating Twitter account was active during the game and explained why a Dallas interception was upheld, nothing was explained about the most controversial call of the game.
An explanation is needed. Payton and the Saints deserve to know why they got the penalty. All 32 teams should know exactly what will and won’t be flagged as an illegal blindside block. And NFL fans should be able to trust that the games they’re watching are going to be called properly. When the league won’t offer an explanation of such a controversial call, it undermines the sport.