Official says refs missed call on low Favre hit
Mike Pereira, the NFL’s vice president of officiating, admitted on the NFL Network’s “Total Access” show this week that referee Pete Morelli’s crew should have called a 15-yard penalty against the New Orleans Saints in the third quarter of the NFC title game Sunday when Vikings quarterback Brett Favre absorbed a low hit from defensive end Bobby McCray.
Favre was hit low by McCray and high by nose tackle Remi Ayodele and injured his left ankle on the play. His pass was intercepted by linebacker Jonathan Vilma. New Orleans took over at its own 31 with the score 21-21 but did not score on the ensuing series.
A penalty would have nullified the interception and given the Vikings the ball at the Saints’ 19. Pereira called it “pretty much a direct shot into the back of (Favre’s) legs,” which isn’t legal because of rules about going after a quarterback’s knees.
On an extended version of the segment on NFL.com, Pereira also discussed wide receiver Devery Henderson’s third-down catch in overtime for the Saints that was upheld on review despite the fact the ball appeared to hit the ground (the question was whether he controlled the ball) and the fourth-down leap by New Orleans running back Pierre Thomas that was reviewed, with the first-down ruling being upheld.
The spot was important, but so was the subject of whether the ball came loose when linebacker Chad Greenway’s helmet hit it. If the ball was clearly knocked out on the first contact with the helmet, Pereira said the forward progress point would have been at the first point that Thomas regained possession.
Said Pereira: “It was kind of one of those, ‘Did he lose possession?’ It’s hard to say. ‘Was he short of the line to gain?’ Equally hard to say.”
One play Pereira did not discuss was the pass interference on Vikings linebacker Ben Leber that moved the ball to the Vikings 29 in overtime and got the Saints in position to kick the winning field goal. Leber was still upset about that call Monday in large part because the pass for tight end David Thomas did not appear to be catchable.
Asked about the penalty on Thursday, league spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail that the league clearly supported the judgment call of the official.
Wrote Aiello: “If the defender steps on the foot of a receiver while not playing the ball, the rule is that it is pass interference. Tangled feet with the defensive player not playing the ball is a foul by rule.”
Whether the ball is catchable is a judgment call.