NFL makes major change to instant replay by making called and uncalled pass-interference penalties reviewable

In the aftermath of the blatant missed interference call in the NFC Championship Game that played a significant role in the Rams' win over the Saints, the NFL is making a significant change to its instant replay process that directly addresses the specific failure that unfairly doomed the Saints. Pass-interference penalties -- both offensive and defensive -- will be reviewable during the 2019 season.

At the annual league meeting on Tuesday, the owners ratified a proposal that will allow coaches to challenge pass-interference penalties, including ones that go uncalled on the field. Additionally, in the final two minutes of the half, the replay assistant can initiate reviews of called and uncalled pass-interference penalties. It's a one-year rule that will be evaluated next year.

To be clear: A flag would not need to be thrown in order for the play to become reviewable. So, under the new rules, the mistake that happened in the NFC title game, which prevented the Saints from likely going on to win the game in regulation, would've been fixed by replay review. Additionally, any end-of-game Hail Marys can obviously be reviewed for pass-interference purposes.

According to Saints coach Sean Payton, the competition committee voted 8-0 in favor the change and the owners approved it with a 31-1 vote. Twenty-four owner votes were needed. According to the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta, the Bengals voted against the rule.

"Felt like we had to go around the block twice to get to the right address," Payton said, according to ESPN's Dan Graziano. He added: "I think we got it right," according to ESPN's Kevin Seifert.

It's a huge win for the coaches. Earlier on Tuesday, Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said that all 32 coaches were in favor of expanded replay, per Seifert. As Seifert reported, the coaches met for almost three hours on Monday to discuss instant replay changes, with Bill Belichick and Andy Reid leading the charge. Payton called the discussion "the best meeting I've been a part of in my 13 years." 

The owners were scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday, but it wasn't clear if a vote would take place at that time or on Wednesday morning. Tabling the vote until the next set of meetings in May was another option. It also wasn't clear if the owners agreed with the coaches. 

The owners appeared to have listened to the wishes of the coaches and they did so without delay.

"What we want is to make sure we can get it right," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said earlier on Tuesday, per ESPN.

The alteration to replay was the biggest change made on Tuesday, but it wasn't the only one. The NFL also outlawed blindside blocks and passed a few new rules that are more minor in nature, in addition to rejecting the Broncos' onside kick proposal and tabling the Chiefs' overtime proposal until May. The NFL also announced on Tuesday night that automatic replay review has been expanded to "include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, and extra points and two-point conversions."

Those are all notable developments, but the NFL saved its biggest decision at the annual league meeting for last, making a change that will dramatically alter the final two minutes of each half and the way coaches use their challenges. As a result, the Saints will hopefully be the final team victimized by a blatant missed pass-interference call. 

"This is what I wanted to happen," Saints owner Gayle Benson said, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. "That's why I made my statement. (The non-call in the title game) will never happen again."

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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