ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) — The NFL head of officiating says Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens did in fact get away with a penalty on the Lions’ fourth-quarter pass to Brandon Pettigrew. But he’s not referring to pass interference.
Speaking to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, Dean Blandino says Hitchens should have been called for defensive holding for grabbing Pettigrew’s jersey.
Had the penalty been called, the Lions would have been awarded an automatic first down.
A flag was thrown and initially announced as pass interference by head official Pete Morelli; however, after officials discussed the play, the flag was picked up without an explanation.
After the game, Morelli said the head linesman — who had a better view — determined there wasn’t enough contact and that Hitchens was face-guarding, which isn’t a penalty in the NFL.
Blandino says the pass interference ruling was a “close call that could have went either way.” He dismissed any notion that Pettigrew should have been flagged for contacting Hitchens’ facemask.
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said Monday that the crew did the right thing by allowing the closest official to overrule the call.
“They don’t ask the first base umpire to call balls and strikes,” said Garrett.
When the flag was thrown, Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant sprinted onto the field, protesting the call without a helmet on. Blandino says his actions are “not an automatic penalty”, but added that he would have supported an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Bryant.
The Lions proceeded to shank a punt 10 yards, allowing the Cowboys to drive down the field for the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
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