Every year, the NFL holds a media summit. It brings together the people who work for the various NFL Media enterprises — including show, hosts and reporters from NFL Network, Around the NFL and so on.
During the summit on Tuesday, the NFL’s senior vice president for officiating, Al Riverton, gave a presentation showing how rule changes regarding pass interference calls could affect the game in 2019. One of the plays Riverton highlighted in the presentation — tweeted by NFL Network’s Michael Giardi — is from last season.
It’s a play Kansas City Chiefs fans will undoubtedly remember. And would probably like to forget.
At NFL Media Summit, #NFL SVP of Officiating Al Riveron is showing us the new OPI/DPI review rules. Week 15 between #Chiefs/#Chargers. DPI is called. Automatic review under 2 minutes. This play would be offset. Mike Williams guilty of OPI, negating Fuller's DPI. Down replayed. pic.twitter.com/LxNb2g07JI— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) June 18, 2019
if you don’t recognize it, this is from the Los Angeles Chargers’ final drive in the Week 15 game at Arrowhead. The Chiefs were leading 28-21. With a victory, the Chiefs would clinch the AFC West and at least the two-seed in the playoffs.
With 13 seconds left in the game, the Chargers were at third-and-10 at the Kansas City 10-yard line. Chargers quarterback Philips Rivers was unable to complete a scoring pass to Mike Williams — but Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller was flagged for defensive pass interference, which gave the Chargers a new set of downs at the 1-yard line.
According to Riverton, this call would have been reversed under the new rules.
Since it was under two minutes to go, it would have been subject to automatic review, and the officials would have penalized Williams for offensive pass interference. That would have given the Chargers third-and-20 from the 20-yard line with eight seconds left.
If the new rules had been in place, the Chargers might not have scored on the next play. At that point, the game could have been over — or the Chargers might have had a few seconds to try again on fourth down.
But what did happen was that the Chargers scored a touchdown on the first-and-goal play. The subsequent two-point conversion (another play Chiefs fans would rather forget) gave the Chargers a 29-28 victory, forcing the Chiefs into two must-win games to close the season.
We can’t say for sure this bad call gave the Chargers the game. But it might have.
With a victory, the Chiefs would have only needed to defeat the Seattle Seahawks the following week to clinch the first seed in the playoffs, and with nothing on the line, could have rested some starters for the Week 17 game against the Oakland Raiders.
Of course... the Chiefs didn’t beat the Seahawks the following week. But maybe coming out of Arrowhead with a win on that Thursday night would have changed the calculus for that game, too.
Maybe... just maybe... that victory could have given the Chiefs an additional edge going in to Seattle the following week and into the postseason — one that could have made a difference a few weeks later against the New England Patriots.
But on the other hand, that also might have meant that we could have seen Chad Henne at quarterback against the Raiders in Week 17. That would have meant no 50-touchdown 5,000-yard season for Patrick Mahomes, and perhaps made Drew Brees more likely to win the NFL MVP award.
All that, of course, is speculation. Here’s the key takeaway: in 2019 — and probably beyond — don’t count on a pass interference call (or no-call) changing the outcome of a game until the official steps out from underneath the hood.