Detroit Lions players are “baffled” that a key pass interference penalty on the Cowboys was overturned late in Dallas’ 24-20 playoff win on Sunday.
On 3rd and 1 with 8:25 left in the fourth quarter, defensive pass interference was called on Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens. Referee Pete Morelli announced the penalty to the crowd, giving Detroit a 1st down, only to reverse the call moments later without an explanation.
According to Albert Breer of the NFL Network, Detroit players think a replay that aired on the jumbotron had a hand in the reversal. From Breer:
Several Lions players expressed the belief that the officials used the hanging video board to conduct an independent review, but Morelli said in a pool report that it was simply a second set of eyes that led to the initial call being overturned.
Lions wide receiver Golden Tate told Breer, “I was unaware you could have a unofficial review by looking at the jumbotron a few times, and then go back, take the ball all the way back and make it fourth-and-1.”
Another player sent a text message to Breer that said, “Doesn’t this seem shady to you?”
After the game Morelli explained what happened. He said that an official with a better view of the play determined that there wasn’t enough contact for pass interference and overruled the official who originally made the call.
What’s unusual about this is that Morelli didn’t change the call until after he officially announced it. No one in the NFL world — from Mike Pereira to Peter King — can remember a flag getting picked up without explanation after the penalty was already declared.
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