Ben­e­fit­ing from pass in­ter­fer­ence penal­ties

Team ranks third in the NFL in yards gained from of­ten game-chang­ing calls

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Ed­ward Lee

There is no pre­tense to throw­ing the foot­ball deep on of­fense. You ei­ther get a mas­sive amount of yards in one shot, and per­haps even a touch­down, or noth­ing.

But there’s also the chance for a side ben­e­fit that is of­ten un­spo­ken: the pass in­ter­fer­ence call.

Pass in­ter­fer­ence — the act of a de­fen­sive player pre­vent­ing a re­ceiver from catch­ing a pass by mak­ing phys­i­cal con­tact af­ter the ball has been thrown — is a penalty that can sal­vage a mori­bund of­fen­sive pos­ses­sion. It’s un­pre­dictable, but the re­sult can al­ter the mo­men­tum in a game.

“You def­i­nitely can’t rely on it, but it’s some­thing good to have,” Ravens wide re­ceiver Ka­mar Aiken said. “It’s def­i­nitely a pos­i­tive.”

The Ravens ben­e­fited from two pass in­ter­fer­ence calls in the fourth quar­ter of the 27-23 loss to the New York Gi­ants on Sun­day at MetLife Sta­dium in East Rutherford, N.J.

The first penalty was as­sessed against corner­back Trevin Wade when he col­lided with wide re­ceiver Bre­shad Per­ri­man on a deep pass down the right side­line. The in­frac­tion helped the

of­fense move from its 28-yard line on third-and-9 to New York’s 30, and the Ravens even­tu­ally got a 35-yard field goal from Justin Tucker to nar­row a four-point deficit to 17-16 with 9:14 left.

The sec­ond call also in­volved Per­ri­man on an­other long run down the right side. This time, the trans­gres­sion — called against corner­back Do­minique Rodgers- Cro­mar­tie — moved the of­fense from the Gi­ants 38 to the 8, and three plays later, run­ning back Ter­rance West scored on a 2-yard run to give the Ravens a short-lived 23-20 lead with 2:04 re­main­ing.

Although the re­sult against New York was a loss, the Ravens have been aided by pass in­ter­fer­ence penal­ties this sea­son. While they are tied for ninth in the NFL in pass in­ter­fer­ence calls in their fa­vor with four, they rank third in yards gained with 105, trail­ing only the Green Bay Pack­ers (239 yards) and the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins (163), ac­cord­ing to NFLPenal­ties.com.

And the New York Jets, the Ravens’ op­po­nent Sun­day, are tied for the sixth-most de­fen­sive pass in­ter­fer­ence in­frac­tions in the league with five. Corner­back Buster Skrine has been flagged for pass in­ter­fer­ence three times, tied for the third-high­est to­tal in the NFL.

Ravens of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Marty Morn­hin­weg said some­times a pass in­ter­fer­ence flag is just as good as a catch.

“It has the same amount of yards as com­plet­ing it,” he said. “It’s a chunk of yards.”

Per­ri­man said he has been sur­prised by how much phys­i­cal con­tact de­fen­sive play­ers get away with at the pro­fes­sional level com­pared with the col­lege ranks. But Per­ri­man said the key is us­ing the de­fend­ers’ ag­gres­sion against them.

“It de­pends on who you’re play­ing against, but for the most part, a lot of cor­ners are ag­gres­sive, and they try to play the ball,” he said. “So I feel like it doesn’t just have to be a deep route. I feel like it can be on any route.”

The eas­i­est pass in­ter­fer­ence call for an of­fi­cial is the one in which a de­fen­sive player bla­tantly grabs a re­ceiver to pre­vent a com­ple­tion. But re­ceivers can help their cause by com­ing back for the ball. Be­cause a de­fender usu­ally has his back turned to the quar­ter­back, a re­ceiver is im­peded from slow­ing down or com­ing back for the ball, and the sub­se­quent col­li­sion draws a flag.

“That’s any­where in the league,” Ravens wide re­ceiver Mike Wal­lace

Pass in­ter­fer­ence in NFL

Heav­ily crit­i­cized for tai­lor­ing the game to ac­com­mo­date pass­ing of­fenses, the NFL has come un­der re­cent scru­tiny for some con­tro­ver­sial pass in­ter­fer­ence penal­ties. The num­ber of in­ter­fer­ence calls made and penalty yards as­sessed in the first six weeks of 2016 are the high­est to­tals since at least 2009. Here is how the other sea­sons stack up through the first six weeks. Year In­ter­fer­ence calls 2009 61 2010 83 2011 70 2012 105 2013 94 2014 81 2015 81 2016 116 Source: NFLPenal­ties.com The Jets’ Buster Skrine, right, who has been flagged for pass in­ter­fer­ence three times, de­fends the Ben­gals’ Tyler Boyd. said. “Any coach will tell you that. That’s why we some­times need to come back for the ball be­cause I look at it as I have the de­fender beat and if I jump back for the ball and the de­fender’s not even look­ing for the ball, you’ll get pass in­ter­fer­ence eas­ily. So when you throw it up there, you give your­self a big chance of ei­ther mak­ing the play or get­ting a P.I. It’s like a 50-50 chance, maybe even a 60-40 chance in fa­vor of the of­fense.”

Per­ri­man said the wide­outs have spot­ted op­por­tu­ni­ties in postgame meet­ings when they should have come back for balls.

“There were some sit­u­a­tions where we should have slowed our­selves down and come back and got­ten the ball at its high­est point and stuff like that,” he said. “That’s been a big fo­cus point.”

Pass in­ter­fer­ence has been a hot topic this week. New Or­leans Saints coach Sean Pay­ton re­it­er­ated his wish that pass in­ter­fer­ence penal­ties Penalty yards 994 1,582 1,118 1,728 1,623 1,580 1,523 1,852 should be chal­lenged af­ter Kenny Vac­caro was cited while cov­er­ing Carolina Pan­thers tight end Greg Olsen even though the strong safety had his head turned and made a play for the ball Sun­day.

At­lanta Fal­cons coach Dan Quinn went bal­lis­tic on the side­line af­ter of­fi­cials missed Seat­tle Sea­hawks corner­back Richard Sher­man’s ap­par­ent in­ter­fer­ence on Julio Jones that ham­pered the wide re­ceiver’s abil­ity to catch a pass on the of­fense’s fi­nal play of an even­tual two-point win for Seat­tle.

Sher­man, who de­nied in­ter­fer­ing with Jones, ar­gued that pass in­ter­fer­ence should be a 15-yard penalty on of­fense and de­fense. Cur­rently, pass in­ter­fer­ence on the de­fense re­sults in mov­ing the ball to the spot of the foul for the of­fense.

The Gi­ants asked the NFL for clar­i­fi­ca­tion on Rodgers-Cro­mar­tie’s penalty in the game against the Ravens. Sev­eral of his team­mates ques­tioned the rul­ing, call­ing it “hor­ri­ble.”

The in­ci­dents have stirred de­bate on whether pass in­ter­fer­ence should be re­view­able, but the league’s com­pe­ti­tion com­mit­tee has con­sis­tently turned down that idea.

While Wal­lace and Aiken said they would op­pose ex­pand­ing re­play be­cause many of the pass in­ter­fer­ence calls are on the de­fense, Jets wide re­ceiver Bran­don Mar­shall said he would be in fa­vor of such a pro­posal.

“I just think it’s good be­cause a call like that can re­ally change the course of a game,” he said. “I think that given how im­por­tant each game is, we should def­i­nitely re­view calls like that.”

BILL KOSTROUN/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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