Pass Interference Was Challenged, and the World Kept Turning

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Did you see it?

The pass from Falcons quarterback Kurt Benkert sailed up the Atlanta sideline with 3:23 remaining in the second quarter of last night’s Hall of Fame Game.

Wideout Russell Gage was knocked slightly off his trajectory by Broncos cornerback Linden Stevens, and a flag was tossed for pass interference. But this time, thanks to a deeply motivated Sean Payton, who was burned by a disastrous call in the NFC Championship Game, the ruling could be challenged. Vic Fangio, in his first game as Broncos head coach, made history.

It felt important enough that the broadcast cut away from a nostalgic interview with Ed Reed about his sterling career to go to the field for an official explanation. That’s when we started the timer on our stopwatch.

And there we were, 1:18:28 later with a confirmation that there was, indeed, pass interference. The Broncos were charged a timeout, and Michele Tafoya was back with Reed.

The fear, of course, is that these little moments will continue to dig into our viewing experience. For the lay fan, a game will more frequently feel like a reciting of municipal code and less like the streamlined football they remember on the boxed televisions of their youth. I wrote about the impossibility of officiating perfection after the championship game, though it’s difficult to tell if Thursday’s milestone event was a harbinger of more chaos to come, or an injection of oddly satisfying common sense.

The good news is that coaches still have a finite number of challenges and will probably be more judicious when the games actually count, given just how many different aspects of a play they need to be concerned about. It will be fascinating to see exactly how many pass interference calls are challenged after this offseason of intense politicking.

For now, we can safely report that the game ended with no further incidents and (thankfully) did not require the use of overtime. At the moment, the Earth is still rotating on its axis, and some people as insane as me still managed to make it all the way through the game without any major philosophical breakdowns. Will it stay that way in a game with three or four PI challenges?

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NOW ON THE MMQB: Fantasy rankings, from our new fantasy writer, Kevin Hanson: QUARTERBACKS, RUNNING BACKS, WIDE RECEIVERS, TIGHT ENDS. What Andrew Luck leanred about football and life during his time away…. Andy Benoit is bullish on Christian McCaffrey, but not so much else in Carolina.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: Breaking down the call for Roger Goodell to testify on the Rams-Saints blown call…. Torry Holt is ready for Canton. He makes his case…. Why Tyreek Hill’s verbal threat warranted a suspension.

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1. The Falcons are getting ready to pay Julio Jones.

2. From thin air, the Jets conjure a starting-caliber center.

3. A prime breakout candidate for 2019? Howabout Robby Anderson of the Jets.

4. Vic Fangio wasn’t letting anything like a kidney stone(!) keep him from his head coaching debut.

5. Ben Roethlisberger is enjoying football a little more in 2019, but can’t quite put his finger on the reason.

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Get ready, gang. From here on out, it’s football every week until the rest of time.

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