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Clayton: Fans rightfully upset about Saints’ non-call, but NFL replay changes won’t help

The non-call on defensive pass interference from the Rams' in the NFC title game will be talked about for months -- and probably years. (AP)

The NFL is a reactionary league. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that, based on what happened with the officiating in the conference championship games, you can expect some changes this offseason.

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The now infamous pass interference non-call in the New Orleans Saints loss to the Los Angeles Rams is probably going to result in the addition of replay challenges for pass interference calls (or a similar rule change). To me, that’s a concern. I worry pass interference replay challenges could lead to more confusion.

For years, the NFL has been resistant to add to replay. Too many stoppages of the game is a concern. But because of officiating mistakes, plenty of things have been given replay (officials replay scoring plays and change of possessions, for instance).

That change, though, might not fix what cost the Saints the game Sunday, because the Competition Committee doesn’t want to have non-calls challenged.

At the moment, there are plenty of emotions stemming from Sunday’s non-call. Saints fans are furious. New Orleans coach Sean Payton is mad. The NFL is embarrassed. But there will be no vote on anything until the owners meetings in March. By then, emotions will have calmed. Personally, I hope they won’t add pass interference to replay — but the league’s reaction right now to the play will probably lead to just that.

Fans question overtime rules

The non-call in the NFC Championship wasn’t the only conversation to come out of Sunday — the AFC Championship brought up a debate of its own.

Kansas City Chiefs fans are upset they Chiefs didn’t get a chance to get the ball in overtime. The New England Patriots took the overtime kickoff and drove for a touchdown to win the game, 37-31. There is a growing number of people who want change. Namely, they want a two-possession opportunity. They don’t want a coin toss to determine the outcome of a game.

Changes in overtime rules have bothered me in the past couple of years. When they opted to give the coin-toss loser an opportunity to get the ball (unless a touchdown was scored) the NFL worried the length of games could create injury problems.

They then cut regular season overtime from 15 minutes to 10. That led to back-to-back ties to start the 2018 season, first between the Steelers and Browns in Week 1, and then between the Vikings and Packers in Week 2. Two possessions in overtime could take as much as eight minutes, which would leave only two minutes for a team to get a field goal drive to win a game. That’s concerning.

It’s different in the playoffs. There is no 10- or 15-minute limit. It’s sudden death, so fans wanting a two possession overtime say they should be fair and add the possessions. Well, the injury concern is still there, and it’s later in the seasons when bodies are more fatigued and injured.

I don’t have a problem seeing the team that wins the kickoff take the call and score and win. But this will be one of the big debates of the offseason.

Finally, Chiefs coach Andy Reid noted that Dee Ford wasn’t warned by officials that he had his right arm over the line of scrimmage. Often, officials are helpful. That didn’t happen for that play. Ford was flagged and it cost the Chiefs a game-clinching interception. Don’t expect any change there, though. It’s not the official’s job to always tell a player when they are in danger of getting a penalty. On Monday, Ford didn’t complain, and admitted the mistake was on him.

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John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle
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