After a controversial set of plays earlier in the game, Walt Anderson’s officiating crew was presented with another controversial call as the Bills failed to convert on 4th and goal at the end of the game. As the fourth-down play unfolded, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman hit and knocked down Bills receiver Walter Powell in the corner of the endzone.
Wonder why this guy wasn’t open pic.twitter.com/kBjkBl86KU
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) November 8, 2016
Even though this looks like another officiating controversy added to this game, the crew got this one right.
Although defensive backs generally aren’t allowed to contact a receiver more than five yards down the field, this play is legal for a few reasons. Defensive backs are allowed to establish their space. It appeared that Powell was trying to get Sherman to back off by doing a Maverick-style buzzing of the tower and Sherman just defended his space. Also, quarterback Tyrod Taylor was out of the pocket so it is legal to block the same as if it was a run play, and it was legal for Sherman to hit Powell at that time.
Defensive pass interference is only back on the table when the quarterback returns to a passing posture.