When the Saints found themselves sitting home during the Super Bowl because of an egregious pass interference penalty in the NFC Championship, lawsuits were filed. It was talk-show fodder around the country for weeks.
And the NFL responded with a knee-jerk reaction to make pass interference penalties -- or ones that weren't called -- subject to an official review.
Sunday, the Steelers got to see first hand just how much of a rabbit hole the league crawled down with that fateful decision.
The Seahawks benefitted tremendously from a key pass interference call that came via booth review that changed the momentum of the game greatly in a 28-26 victory over the Steelers in their Pittsburgh's opener here at Heinz Field.
How dramatic a difference was it?
Playing without injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers (0-2) had climbed back into the game on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Mason Rudolph to Vance McDonald that made it 21-19 after Rudolph's two-point conversion attempt was intercepted with 11:23 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Seahawks (2-0) picked up a first down on their ensuing possession, but the crowd, worked into a frenzy, helped get a false start on Seattle right tackle Mike Ifedi. Then, on first-and-15, guard D.J. Fluker was called for holding, making it first-and-25.
A running play picked up five yards and made it second-and-20 at the Seattle 27 when the Seahawks rolled Russell Wilson to his right. He fired a pass deep downfield to Tyler Lockett with safeties Terrell Edmunds and Kameron Kelly, who replaced an injured Sean Davis, on coverage.
The ball fell incomplete and facing third-and-20, the Seahawks essentially waved the white flag, handing the ball off for a running play. But as the ball was being snapped, Seattle coach Pete Carroll threw the challenge flag.
"The challenge came to fruition for us when we needed it," said Carroll, who had a pass interference challenge denied in the first half. "It was a legitimate opportunity. The other one I forced a little bit down there in the first half. But that was a legitimate one right there."
The New York replay office agreed.
"We take a look at it and there were three or four TV angles that show us there was clear and obvious visual evidence the receiver was significantly hindered by the defender in his attempt to make a catch," NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron told a pool reporter.
"It was clear and obvious he was significantly hindered."
This is not the first time Riveron has made a decision on replay that has cost the Steelers dearly. He also overturned a Jesse James touchdown in 2017 against New England that led to the Steelers losing that game.
We know how that worked out.
But it is the first time a team has won a challenge on a non-called pass interference play in a game. And the Steelers weren't happy about it.
"I disagreed with it," Mike Tomlin said. "I don’t believe any of us have an understanding of what the standards are once those things go to replay. I don’t know."
At least one former head coach and now current NFL analyst felt the same way.
Now in the Seattle game a non call Defensive Pass Interference does get overturned against Pittsburgh. I have no idea what is “clear and obvious” pass interference and what isn’t.
— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) September 15, 2019
"We thought that was a big stop there," Edmunds added. "We thought they were going to kick it. Then, they end up overturning the call."
The energy was sucked out of Heinz Field following that play. And moments later, Wilson essentially put the game away, throwing a 28-yard touchdown pass to 6-foot-4, 229-pound rookie receiver D.K. Metcalf, who caught the ball over Edmunds despite good coverage.
"Regardless of what is going on, that’s my play to make. I’ve got to make it," Edmunds said.
But the Steelers wish it had never come to that point.
"That’s my first time in that situation, so we’ll get a better idea Monday of how we can respond and the things that were done out there in that situation," defensive end Stephon Tuitt said. "Right now, they got the call and we got the short end of the stick on that."
It wasn't the only beneficial call the Seahawks got in the game. They also benefitted from a questionable personal foul penalty on a field goal attempt in the first half on which Daniel McCullers was called for falling onto long snapper Tyler Ott.
That came with the Steelers leading 7-0 in the second quarter. And one play after the penalty, Wilson threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Will Dissly to tie the score.
The Steelers scored a field goal at the end of the first half to regain the lead, but could have taken a 10-3 lead into the half.
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