The NFL announced Tuesday that it is expanding instant replay in 2019 to include pass interference — allowing for review to overturn calls and non-calls. This figures to have a major impact on the sport. The question: How big, and to what extent will it impact the Vikings?
First take: Michael Rand
ESPN has some interesting data showing that over the past three seasons, defensive pass interference has accounted for just 9 percent of all penalties called but that those calls have a massive influence over win probability. It’s not hard to imagine a Vikings game (or two) next year having an outcome very much connected to an overturned interference call.
In which direction is a good question. The Vikings last season had seven defensive pass interference penalties called against them and seven in their favor. The league average was 7.4 per team in the regular season, so they were very average.
That said, Mike Zimmer tends to have aggressive defensive backs. Are guys like Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes at risk of having calls overturned against them?
Ben Goessling, Vikings writer: It’s certainly an interesting question, with Rhodes especially. He was flagged for pass interference three times in 2017 and twice last season, with a 31-yard call on the first play of the fourth quarter against the Seahawks proving especially pivotal; Seattle extended its drive based on the call, and it added 3.16 expected points to a drive that resulted in a field goal.
Zimmer talked last week about how Rhodes needs to clean up his technique to get back to being the kind of corner he’s been in the past. We should remember how many injuries he was playing through last year; his foot, hamstring and groin ailments undoubtedly hampered his ability to move and might have led to him grabbing more frequently (he was flagged three times for holding and once for illegal contact).
But especially now that pass interference calls are reviewable, you can bet teams are going to try to put Rhodes in situations where his physicality could come back to bite him.
In the end, though, I don’t know that Zimmer will instruct his corners to play differently. He’ll teach them to adapt to the latest round of rule changes, to be sure, and he did have Rhodes playing off receivers in coverage in 2018 more frequently than he’s done in the past.
But he tends to view some of the penalties as the cost of doing business when you have physical corners. His cardinal rule for defensive backs is, “Don’t let your guy catch the ball,” and he’s likely to be as irked by completions that come from overly cautious coverage as anything else.
Rand: I also wonder if we’ll see more emotion-based challenges from coaches — and Zimmer in particular. He’s 12-for-28 all-time on challenges (42.9 percent), including just 1-for-5 last season. Pass interference might seem obvious to one person and inconclusive to another.
Goessling: That thought occurred to you too, huh? To me, the key to this will be having eagle-eyed coaches up in the press box who can clearly diagnose a call and give the right advice quickly.
The “chuck it deep, get a call and hurry to the line” move seems like it could be part of the Aaron Rodgers repertoire before too long.
Rand: It wouldn’t be a new NFL rule without ways to circumvent it!
Final word: Goessling
I think the NFL bowed to popular pressure on this one, more than it often does. It’s hard to imagine the change not altering some games this season. It promises to be interesting, as always.
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