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Published on 10/21/2010 at Thu Oct 21 12:34.
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Denver Broncos defender Renaldo Hill is called for pass interference pulling on the face mask of New York Jets' wide receiver Santonio Holmes during the fourth quarter of play Sunday October 17, 2010 at Invesco Field at Mile High. Photo by Joe Amon, The Denver Post

Denver Broncos defender Renaldo Hill is called for pass interference pulling on the face mask of New York Jets' wide receiver Santonio Holmes during the fourth quarter of play Sunday October 17, 2010 at Invesco Field at Mile High. Photo by Joe Amon, The Denver Post

BT contributor T-Money chimes in with his thoughts on the NFL’s pass interference penalty following Sunday’s loss.

It was 4th and six with 1:36 left in the 4th quarter, and the Denver Broncos were knocked out cold.  Not by Mark Sanchez’s prayer to Santonio Holmes that ultimately hit the ground.  By a ball of sand wrapped in a yellow jumpsuit.  Broncos’ safety Renaldo Hill was called for pass interference because of his slight grab of New York Jets’ wide receiver Santonio Holmes’ facemask, and the Broncos never recovered.

Up to that point, the Broncos (2-4) were the better team.  They did not look perfect by any means but they pushed the Jets (5-1) to their breaking point by holding the league’s best rushing attack to a season low 129 yards and handed Sanchez his first two interceptions of the season.  If it weren’t for that 46 yard penalty on 4th down, the Broncos win that game.

Think about that. A penalty — not egregious, not intentional in nature, and lacking malice — cost the better team the game.  If Hill’s hand grabs the collar of Holmes’ jersey, we’re probably talking about the 3-3 Broncos. 

But as much as I wish I was wrong, the referee got the call right.  The NFL Rulebook states:

It is pass interference by either team when any player movement beyond the line of scrimmage significantly hinders the progress of an eligible player of such player’s opportunity to catch the ball. Defensive pass interference rules apply from the time the ball is thrown until the ball is touched.

Having said that, I do not believe that this call should have been made and, more importantly, I strongly do not believe that it was worth the 46 yards that were awarded to the Jets.

Arguably the worst rule in the NFL is pass interference.  Not only is it one of the most difficult calls to get right from a referee stand point, it also unfairly favors the offense. It is something that usually happens in the split of a second, is hardly ever justified and it is wrong at least 50% of the time. It can also be the difference between a win and a loss as we all witnessed last Sunday.

The question then becomes, is there a way to change the rule to make it effective but not overly decisive. As the rule stands now; defensive pass interference warrants an automatic first down from the spot of the foul.  It doesn’t matter if it is 5 yards or 80 yards, it’s from the spot of the foul.  I do agree that it is nice to have it go in your favor, but there is nothing more frustrating than watching an offense walk 50 yards down the field for free.  It’s too much, it’s unreasonable, and it’s incredibly unfair to the defense.

Denver Broncos defender Renaldo Hill is called for pass interference pulling on the face mask of New York Jets' wide receiver Santonio Holmes during the fourth quarter of play Sunday October 17, 2010 at Invesco Field at Mile High. Photo by Joe Amon, The Denver Post

Denver Broncos defender Renaldo Hill is called for pass interference pulling on the face mask of New York Jets' wide receiver Santonio Holmes during the fourth quarter of play Sunday October 17, 2010 at Invesco Field at Mile High. Photo by Joe Amon, The Denver Post

So what if the pass interference was a 15 or 20 yard penalty and an automatic first down?  Would you then be able to say that all penalties are justified?  Probably not, but it would make a significantly more positive impact on the game. Not only would you take the game’s outcome out of the hands of the referee, but you also eliminate an offenses ability to play for a penalty instead of playing for the football.  It would still give new life to a dying drive, but it would do it without cutting the legs completely out from under defenses. You cannot tell me that the call last Sunday didn’t take all the energy and the fight out of the Broncos.

Yes, it does take a lot away from the deep pass and it would eliminate most hopes of that last second game saving drive.  It is part of the game and the way that it’s played, and yes, both teams play by the same rules.  However, you must consider that every other rule in the rulebook has a definite number of yards tacked onto it.

I’ll also remind you that 15 yards and an automatic fist down is no light infraction.  Just ask Ryan McBean about his facemask penalties in Jacksonville.  Those two penalties were only worth 30 yards (16 less than Hill’s pass interference) and they proved to be more than enough to give the Jaguars the win.

No matter how you look at it, this rule is one that will be a hot topic for a long time.  Changed or not, it will have a still huge impact on any game. Nevertheless, it needs to be looked at by the NFL in the future and adjusted to make it better suited for professional football.

What do you think Bronco Nation?  Should the NFL change the pass interference rule?  Is this rule hindering the Defense’s ability to make plays?

  • broncoman24

    I completely agree. I wont go as far as saying that the penalty should of never been called. It was legitimate call and the blame should be put on hill for it. If he doesn't even touch him, I believe he still wouldn't of caught the ball. They should definately change this in the future. Like you say 15-20 yds for the penatly. It is ridiculous that they would get that many yds for one penalty. Hopefully they will change this.

  • Cyberspread

    Good read. And I agree. Change it to a 15 Yard/1st down penalty…

  • Michael Land

    I don't think you can automatically change it to a 15 yard automatic 1st down penalty cause then every time a ball is throw over 15 yards what's to stop a defensive player who is beat or is out of position from blatantly interfering with the receiver? Sure it's a 15 yard penalty but better to give up 15 yards than a TD. What they need to do is make it 15 yards for incidental contact (like Hill this past weekend) and a spot foul for obvious interference infractions. The only downside is that this becomes a judgement call for the refs but aren't all the calls they make judgement calls?

  • mikebirty

    i saw someone somewhere else suggesting an “accidental” pass interference penalty like the old 5 yard face mask penalty. It'd recognise that some times the defender doesn't mean to intefere but sometimes does. Of course then you bring in the fact that what one ref sees as accidental the other sees as deliberate.

    Also, whilst we're on the subject of rule changes, how about a 15 yard unsportsman-like conduct penalty to anyone who makes the “flag throwing” motion indicating that they think pass interference (or any penalty) has been comitted.

    And finally, I'm seeing too many players making a meal of holding calls, trying to the get refs attention by waving their arms about and falling on the floor – stop acting, this ain't soccer.

  • Mergrath

    Well said Michael! I think that there needs to be a seperate foul for incidental contact as well. I also think that both pass interference calls & incidental contact fouls should be reviewable within the last 2-minutes of each half.

  • Geoffhull03

    I like the rule as is. If you reverse the roles, and we're 3-3, we love the rule. Just because it didn't go in our favor this game, doesn't mean it hasn't helped us before. That being said, on Orton's long pass to Royal in the end zone earlier in the game was a missed call. Revis had his hands all over Eddie's facemask as he tried to make the catch.
    If you have it just a 15 yard penalty, you'll have corners that get beat on a route going after receivers getting them to miss on a catch that could go 40 or 50 yards, and only getting penalized 15. The rule is good as is

  • T-Money

    In all reality it's a matter of perspective… Where you looked from. I went back and forth on whether or not it should have been called but in the end I thought they were both making a play at the ball and that there was equal contact. I Hill touched the ball at all…the flag stay in the refs pants.

  • T-Money

    Mike Nolan actually proposed that same thing to the NFL when he was coaching the 49ers. Basically it was exactly what you said. There would be two different yardages and the Refs would decide on which one it was. Everybody rolled their eyes at him and continued they push to make this an offensive game though.

  • ronster

    Keep in mind that the NFL loves having viewers hanging with the game, down to the wire. The possibility of a long penalty adds to the chance that the behind team might prevail. I agree that the current system is broken, and it did not take this particular play to make me think so. But the NFL is waay big into network and DTV contracts, and those venues love for us to watch games til the bitter end.

  • Nathanetch

    If hill didn't grab his face mask then the broncos would have won but the ref made the right call they beat the broncos far and square.

  • herc_rock

    Our third down playcalling seems to consist of sending Lloyd on a nine route and hoping for PI. We kind of need this rule…crappy as it is.

  • Josh Temple

    LOL, sad but true.

  • herc_rock

    I don't know how you can look at the banner pic and say that wasn't PI.

  • Jon

    How about a 15-yard penalty when the it is in the last two mintues of the game or 2 min left until hafltime, I'd like the rule changed to that, but during the game I like the spot rule

  • Jon

    That sounds like a great idea

  • broncoman24

    But even though that player has beaten the defender, whose to say he catches the ball or the ball is overthrown. I think they should consider it like they do when there is a PI call in the endzone. It isn't like they give them the touchdown (they place the ball at the 1 yd line). They don't give the WR the benefit of the doubt and say lets give them the touchdown. I hear what your saying. What you say is an improvement over the current rules and I could deal with that, but like you mentioned do we really want to give the refs that much leeway.

  • areferee

    Because of my background, I address this issue with the overview of a game official and possible bias, so please accept what I say with that caveat.

    Regarding pass interference, just as with all other rules violations, the “punishment should fit the crime”. Pass interference is unique, in that it often times may involve potential scoring and is, therefore, critical to the game regardless of when or where it occurs and must remain consistent throughout the game.

    The Bronco/Jets game is a great illustration of what I believe is a needed rule change with respect to pass interference in the NFL, and perhaps other areas of football, as well.

    There should be two levels of pass interference. Flagrant and non-flagrant. In the case of Renaldo Hill and Santonio Holmes, Hill was guilty of what I would propose was non-flagrant pass interference. I further propose that the punishment should be a 15 yard penalty, period. (No automatic first down.) Had he been ruled guilty of flagrant pass interference, it is and would remain a spot penalty, automatic first down from the spot of the violation.

    Conversely, the rules need to be changed to reflect the severity of the violation for OFFENSIVE, pass interference. (Both the receiver and defender have equal right to the ball and it should so remain.) Example: the same burden applies to the receiver; flagrant and non-flagrant. For a non-flagrant offensive pass interference, a 15 yard penalty from the original line of scrimmage. For a flagrant violation, a 15 yard penalty from the original line of scrimmage PLUS loss of down.

    Whenever you have two levels of punishment, like the old face-mask penalty, you have the subjective opinion of an impartial, (hopefully), game official who will make the call. That will always be the case, pending appeal, and should so remain in these instances. The rules can be clarified to the officials by statute as to what is or is not flagrant.

    I think there are other rules that should be tweaked, but this is one of the most glaring examples of a rule that needs to be updated, along with perhaps, a better definition of what is a legal tackle and what is a violation. (As in “cheap shot”!)

    What say YOU, Bronco Nation?

  • Dm

    Right call was made. If the penalty went The Broncos way there would be no discussion

  • 5280rich

    IF you watch the 2(holmes & Hill) from the sanp of the ball and you watch the whole route, holmes had is hands all over hill from the snap of the ball. If you take a carefull look at the photo at the top of the page you will notice that hill if not only slightly grabbing the face mask but that he is also falling backwards. Hill was trying to catch himself from falling because holmes had grabbed and pulled him from behind. this penalty should have been called on holmes. DB's are expected to treat WR's like fine china but it's no problem for the ref to let the db get molested through the whole route. i think its a combination of the 2. yes we should re evaluate PI( i agree with michael lands idea. incidental or personal foul because if a DB trys to draw incidental PI the ref is obviously going to call it personal foul instead cuz its blatent), but also the refs need to start calling offensive PI and/or illegal contact way more then they do now because a reciever can basicly do what ever he wants now. The player should decide the outcome of the game not the ref.

  • Aaron McFarland

    I would say change it to College Football rules, 15 yards and a first down. It is great when you get the call (Tennessee) but sucks when you don't (New York Jets), but the refs shouldn't be able to change the outcome of the game on a simple call, which these two did.

  • LevonZevon

    Maybe blitzing DJ Williams a second time would've prevented Sanchez from even having time to throw that 4th-and-6 pass? But, hey, BroncoTalk only allows discussions of topics it pre-selects (and apparently calls that aren't made don't survive the cut).

    Renaldo Hill, plain-and-simple, interfered– and, as beneficiaries of long P.I. calls this pre-season and reg. season– we Broncos fans have no reason to gripe. The fact that it was for that many yards or even that it was unintentional doesn't matter.

    However, giving Wink Martindale a positive-rating for the Jets game is actually fair (as its the head-coach who's afraid to blitz and the D.C. is there to shoulder the as-yet-non-existent blame).

    Same as before in Shanny-vision's lost decade of the revolving-door D.C.'s (who took the blame for an arrogant coach who insisted on taking few chances.. and all on offense).

    McD was shrewd for the onside kick and for finally going deep to Lloyd on the first-series (which opened up run-lanes by backing up Jets safeties for awhile, at least).

    But, like under Shanahan, D.J.'s blitzing skills get sidelined (as Bailey's interception abilities never get a chance to intercept a forced pass thrown under 5 seconds of duress).

    You all can pretend that the game comes down to two or three muffed plays (and with six more points, the Jets game may indeed have been a win). But the team that has 5 seconds to throw will beat the team with three seconds to throw 90% of the time.

    I'll probably be writing this in vain too (like my last two posts that wasted an hour and never saw the light of day).

    Hopefully not. So I soldier on.

    But I also keep noticing that teams are attacking our O-line by overloading one side of the blockers and wasting one of our O-linemen (who ends up blocking air). Too bad, our ever-predictable defensive front-seven doesn't loosen up and try such tricks, stunts, spins and attacks from the strong side.

    It can't be that its too confusing to teach.

    Of course, for a team that tries to win without ever once attacking the deep middle of the field… what can I expect?

    And I thought that McDaniels may have been an offensive genius. I guess I was so eager for a 3-4 change that I convinced myself based purely on his pedigree. But, unlike Josh, Belichick doesn't coach to disprove the peanut-gallery. He coaches to win, pure-and-simple.

    Josh, on the other hand, has a genius for self-promotion (which is doubtlessly where the 2-blocking TE coaching signature derived from). And not a single Broncos web-site or D.P. article has focused on the TE position's lack of a receiving threat all season and the resulting morass between-the-hash-marks and in the run-game.

    Excuse my cynicism, but that doesn't mean the other teams haven't noticed and game-planned to capitalize upon it.

    Imagine scheming against our offense and knowing that every pass but a 7-yard slot-throw to Royal or Gaffney has to be headed to the 10 inches of sometimes-unavailable sideline space?

    Its another huge advantage. Like the disparity in pressure and the lack of even a threat to run-blitz.

    It keeps games close and it keeps runs within 20-yards. But it must suck the morale from a team of defenders who never get to attack and give the offense something to worry about (as Orton must on nearly every pre-snap gesticulation…. as the play-clock goes to zero and the defense can, thus, time their explosion off the line).

    Meanwhile, the defenses facing us also have a whole section of the field to not be concerned with.

    Someone else has got to have noticed this trend, no?

    Lack of pressure yet no natural pass-rush– albeit injury-hastened– no physical threats to go deep in the seams and no overloaded D-line blitzes to waste the opposition's opposite-side blockers (and nary a run-blitz all year long).

    I agreed with Nolan's firing, b.t.w. But not at the removal of the occasional run-blitz to keep offenses guessing.

    We may keep things close, but there's absolutely no reason to hamstring our own chances based purely on….

    …..Well I don't know what's behind this?

    Maybe he doesn't want to break his pre-season vision of no run-blitzes and no out-of-position players on offense (until Josh begins the fabled Spread offense under Tim's command in 2011)?

    Until then, he gets to test out his theories of coverage over pressure and preventing chaos instead of causing it (since he has another two season's of job security and all the resulting free spins of the slot-machine handle that go with it).

    But, back to the topic: if they ever changed the P.I. rule again– and made it all 15-yards like they did when certain P.I.'s were re-assigned as illegal-contact– you'd go back to the Mel Blount days when big, physical cornerbacks could harass receivers down-field if they did it in subtle ways.

    Actually the Patriots d-backs and Dolphins CB's did extra hand-checking in the early 2000's by consistently making nuanced contact way past the five-yard chuck zone. It was only when other teams brought it to the league's attention that it got called too often to make it worthwhile.

    That's why it only went down as illegal contact. But the refs were so trained to look for the suspicious overt move that they barely noticed it when guys like Ty Law were wristing the opposing receivers from the snap to the end of the play (but, by doing so without overt contrasts, they weren't drawing visual attention to the violations).