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Lions cornerback: NFL admitted DPI was 66-yard error

nevin-lawson-det lions photo

Being a spot foul, defensive pass interference can definitely save a drive for a struggling offense, or ruin a drive for a defense trying to save the game. On Sunday,  Lions  defensive back Nevin Lawson was penalized for defensive pass interference on Packers  receiver Trevor Davis, a spot foul worth 66 yards, placing the ball at the  2-yard line. Back judge Jim Quirk threw the flag on Lawson, and Green Bay scored on the following play.

“Just seen the ball in the air, I didn’t even see him, to be honest. I was just focusing on the ball. He tripped, and that’s what they called,” Lawson said following the game. is reporting that  this penalty was the longest penalty enforced in 15  years.

On the play, Lawson grabbed the arm of Davis, and following that contact, the two players’ feet became tangled up, causing Davis to fall to the ground. Quirk initially signaled an incomplete pass (to give a definitive signal to kill the clock), then he reached for his flag. According to Rule 8-5-3(b):

Acts that are permissible by a player include, but are not limited to:

… (b) Inadvertent tangling of feet when both players are playing the ball or neither player is playing the ball.

Shortly after the play, NFL Football Operations tweeted out this response to the call, posting a generic video of the defensive pass interference rule. (Although the tweet refers to the first quarter, it was the first play of the second quarter, and was the only pass interference foul called in the game.)

According to Michael Rothstein of, the league apparently has found Lawson’s coverage was not a foul.  Lawson stated  that a Lions team official had informed  him that there was an admission of an error from the officiating department on the play. Coach Jim Caldwell would not comment on discussions with the league office on that call.

This raises a question that has plagued the Competition Committee in the past: since  defensive pass interference is so subjective, should it be reviewable by rule? This will definitely be an area to look at by the committee in the offseason, as this supposed error cost a team two-thirds of the field in field position. A proposal by the Baltimore Ravens at the 2016 owners meeting to make all plays reviewable was tabled, and later rejected. However, as a result of this play, there is a potential for a closer examination of the idea in the following year.

Another possibility to make defensive pass interference less destructive to defenses is to make it a yardage foul as opposed to a spot foul. In the NCAA, defensive pass interference is a 15-yard penalty. Senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino, however, has stated that  defenders would be rewarded if they choose  to interfere on deep passes  longer than the fifteen  yard penalty.

With numerous long-yardage penalties for defensive pass interference in the last few years, the league  may feel its time to change the rule on this foul. Although the interference is called incorrectly only a small percentage of the time, instituting replay might be  the way to go in the NFL moving forward.

Image: Detroit Lions photo

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Cameron Filipe
Cam Filipe is a graduate student at Boston University and has been involved in football officiating for ten years. Cam is in his second season as a high school football official. This is his seventh season covering NFL officiating for Football Zebras.

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3 thoughts on “Lions cornerback: NFL admitted DPI was 66-yard error

  1. What about the grabbing of the arm ? Have we forgotten this ? We all know about the tangling of the legs but what about the arm grab ??

  2. The rules are clear. Mistakes may be made. It can happen either way. I would leave the rules as they stand. I would just watch for officials who are not consistant.

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