League unhappy penalty reversed in Lions' playoff loss

Mon Jan 5, 2015 5:55pm EST
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(Reuters) - The NFL would have preferred officials stuck with an initial pass interference penalty instead of reversing the call in a controversial decision that cast a shadow over Sunday's playoff game between Dallas and Detroit.

Clinging to a 20-17 lead with about eight minutes left in the game, Detroit looked to have extended the pivotal drive when Cowboys defender Anthony Hitchens was initially flagged for pass interference while defending Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew.

However, instead of getting a crucial first down well into Dallas territory, the Lions were forced to punt after officials reversed the call, determining there had been no foul.

Dallas took over and went on a game-winning drive on their ensuing possession for a 24-20 victory.

NFL head of officials Dean Blandino said on Monday that picking up the penalty flag was "debatable" and that he would have preferred the crew stuck with its initial call.

Blandino stressed that the decision was a "judgment call."

"I think it's debatable," Blandino told NFL.com. "There was a left hand on (Pettigrew's) shoulder, but does that significantly hinder the receiver's ability to make the catch?

"Looking at all the angles, we're not convinced it is or it isn't. I think had the flag not been thrown, I think we still would have debated it.

"I'd prefer that they kept it down, having the flag down," Blandino added. "But like I said it's a tight judgment call that could have went either way."   Continued...

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) argues a pass interference call with side judge Allen Baynes (56) that was called on linebacker Anthony Hitchens (59) in the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions in the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game at AT&T Stadium.  Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports