By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT – As the former NFL vice president of officiating and current rules analyst on Fox Sports, Mike Pereira carries serious weight when it comes to discussions of whether an officiating crew called a given play correctly.
Sunday, many questioned a crucial call made – and then changed – in the playoff game between the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys.
Midway through the fourth quarter, with the Lions ahead, 20-17, officials called Dallas linebacker Anthony Hitchens for pass interference. The infraction gave Detroit a first down, but without explanation and after an extended period of time, the officials picked the flag back up.
The Cowboys, who had trailed all game, went on to win, 24-20.
Pereira disputed the picking up of the flag on air during the game and did so again in a video posted to his Twitter page.
“To me, you can’t pick that flag up,” Pereira said. “Hitchens was not playing the ball, shoved with his left arm first, [Detroit tight end Brandon] Pettigrew came back and tried to get to the ball, couldn’t – that’s pass interference and was correctly called on the field. And actually it was defensive holding also because Pettigrew got his jersey grabbed and stretched as he tried to get off the line of scrimmage, so a huge break for the Cowboys in that situation.”
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said he thought pass interference was the correct call, and he acknowledged the reversal of the call may have made a significant impact.
“It’s a big play in the game,” Stafford said. “There’s no question about it. If we get those yards there, who knows, we maybe go score a touchdown and the thing’s out of reach, but there are a lot of plays along the way here and there that if we just executed a little bit better in all phases on a few we come away with a win.
“It’s their decision,” Stafford added. “I don’t have to understand it, I guess.”
Lions head coach Jim Caldwell would not speak at length about the explanation he got for the call.
“Not good enough,” Caldwell said. “Not a good enough one. I’ll leave it at that.
“I’m not going to sit up here and act like that was the call that made a difference in the game,” Caldwell continued. “We still had our chances.”
The Lions jumped out to a 14-point lead in the first quarter, but they could not put the ball in the end zone the rest of the game. Though many players expressed displeasure about the picking up of the flag for pass interference, they recognized they had other opportunities to impact the game’s outcome.
“There was a bunch of plays that could have changed the way of the game,” linebacker Ashlee Palmer said. “You’ve just got to take them as they come and play the next play. You can’t worry about what’s going on on that play because we could have done a lot of stuff more to prevent ourselves from being in situations like that.”
Referee Pete Morelli has defended the picking up of the flag.