The Patriots apparently got away with pass interference at the end of the Super Bowl

League owners approved a 1-year trial to review for both flagged and unflagged pass interference.

Stephon Gilmore, Brandin Cooks
The admitted interference by Stephon Gilmore on Brandin Cooks late in Super Bowl LIII. CBS Screengrab

Pass interference, whether flagged or not, can be challenged by coaches and reviewed by officials next season.

NFL team owners voted Tuesday on a one-year trial basis to include those often-controversial penalties in the officiating replay review system.

Coaches still will have two challenges per game, and in the final two minutes of a half or fourth quarter or for all of overtime, the replay official can order a review of offensive or defensive pass interference.

The major change — owners traditionally have been highly reluctant to include any penalties in the replay process — stems from an egregious missed call in the NFC championship game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints.


Apparently, there was also a no-call last postseason that benefited the Patriots.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the competition committee admitted that defensive pass interference should have been called on a play in the fourth quarter. He’s not referring to arguably the most memorable play of Super Bowl LIII: Cornerback Jason McCourty’s mad dash to knock an easy touchdown away from Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks.

He’s referring to the play before cornerback Stephon Gilmore’s easy fourth-quarter interception of Rams quarterback Jared Goff. With the Patriots leading 10-3, on first down, Goff heaved a pass intended for Cooks from New England’s 27-yard line. Gilmore appeared to grab Cooks’s forearm a bit early, before safety Duron Harmon ran to help force the pass incomplete. According to Schefter, the Rams should have received the ball at the one-yard line. Instead, it was 2nd-and-10.

There seemingly was no protest by Cooks after the play. Though CBS color commentator Tony Romo referenced the arm grab while watching the replay, both he and play-by-play commentator Jim Nantz declared it was a catch Cooks should’ve made.

The competition committee, which recommends rules changes to the ownership, had been split 4-4 on adding interference penalties, particularly non-flagged ones, to replay. But they tweaked the proposal, and it remains part of the overall replay system.


“We felt this was a place to start,” said Falcons president Rich McKay, who is chairman of the competition committee. “There was a lot of discussion and definitely a block of people on the committee and in membership concerned about the ability to put a flag on. We got more comfortable as we worked it out that it would be captured in the replay system.”

Also at the annual meetings, owners voted down a proposal to replace the onside kick with one play from scrimmage, and tabled a suggestion to require each team to have one possession in overtime regardless of what happened on the first series of the extra period.

Owners vetoed the idea of a one-year trial of a fourth-and-15 play from the offense’s 35-yard line to replace the onside kick, considered one of the game’s more dangerous plays. The powerful competition committee recommended the play by a vote of 7-1, but the owners were not swayed.

The overtime change is championed by several clubs after the AFC championship game in January — and the 2017 Super Bowl — ended with a Patriots touchdown without the opponent getting the ball. New England won the coin toss both times.

Currently, the format is a touchdown on the opening possession of OT ends the game, but a field goal allows the other team a series with the ball. If that team also kicks a field goal, the game continues.


Owners will next take up the overtime topic at their May meeting.

Approved on Tuesday:

— Making permanent all kickoff rules implemented only for the 2018 season. Studies showed this player safety initiative worked.

— Eliminating the blindside block in an effort to expand protection of a defenseless player. It is now a 15-yard penalty if a player initiates a block in which he is moving.

“As a former player and father of two that play ball, and having the opportunity to coach (youth football),” football operations chief Troy Vincent said, “this particular play, the blindside block, it ends careers, puts people on the shelf.

“That particular technique, I was taught that. To have that removed out of our game is significant.”

— Allowing teams to elect to enforce on an extra point kick or play an opponent’s personal or unsportsmanlike conduct foul committed during a touchdown.