Late in the first half of the Detroit Lions’ Thanksgiving Day loss, fans were treated to some deja vu. NOT ANOTHER PICKED UP PASS INTERFERENCE FLAG?
Yes, I’m afraid it is.
On a second-quarter play, Bears quarterback Chase Daniel found Taquan Mizzell Sr. for a 10-yard score, putting the Bears up 9-7 before the end of the half.
But there was a flag on the play. Bears receiver Allen Robinson (top of the screen lined up on the line of scrimmage) had impeded the route of Lions linebacker Christian Jones, who was in man coverage with Mizzell.
One ref officially motioned offensive pass interference, but before the head official announced it to Ford Field, the refs gathered. After a few seconds of discussion, they announced there was no penalty for pass interference, but didn’t offer an explanation why.
After the game, the head official Brad Allen was asked to explain the call, but his response did not provide any clear answer to as why it was not pass interference:
Officials picked up a flag for offensive pass interference on a touchdown late in the first half. Here's the explanation from the head official, Brad Allen. pic.twitter.com/SaJ6JjbggO— Justin Rogers (@Justin_Rogers) November 22, 2018
When asked if the call was on the Allen Robinson pick, Brad Allen said, “I can’t speak to that because I haven’t seen it on video, but the mechanics are that another official brought information to the table and we picked up the flag.”
Allen failed to divulge what that new information was brought to the discussion or explain why the pick was legal.
According to the NFL rulebook, the following may result in a pass interference flag:
- “Cutting off the path of an opponent by making contact with him, without playing the ball”
- “Contact by a player who is not playing the ball that restricts the opponent’s opportunity to make the catch”
While there is nothing clear in the rulebook about running a pick route, it is generally accepted that if a player is simply running a route, he can’t be blamed for getting in the way of a defensive player—who, it could be argued, is in his way. Intent is important here. Mile High Report explained in well here:
The tricky part is it is still completely a judgement call by the ref. In most cases (even though we know these plays are designed to create the pick effect), the question that arises is intent. If there is contact, was the contact intentional? Did the receiver knowingly cut off a defender to spring someone else open? Was the receiver just running a route and things got congested?
Robinson very clearly eyes down Jones to get in his way, but his half-hearted effort to turn around and mimic a curl route may have been just enough to convince one of the refs he was running a legitimate route. Unfortunately, Brad Allen didn’t give us any real explanation to be sure.