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Pass interference calls in Cardinals-Bucs leave few happy

Officials review the catch by Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals during the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Arizona Cardinals on November 10, 2019 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Will Vragovic/Getty Images)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Nobody will go as far as arguing the Arizona Cardinals got beat by the referees Sunday in Tampa Bay.

No Maxx Williams sun-blinded drop here, a defensive stop there, and the Cardinals would be talking about their fourth win of the year. Instead, it was a 30-27 loss to the Buccaneers that sent them on a sour cross-country return trip.

Yet because of the NFL’s new replay review rules, specifically on pass interference calls or non-calls, the Week 10 game stood out.

There were five pass interference penalties called on the day, and all of them occurred in the fourth quarter.

After all those flags, one non-call and non-review on the final play of the day stung for Arizona.

A deep pass targeting Cardinals receiver Pharoh Cooper fell incomplete, but not before Cooper was hit from behind by defensive back Jamel Dean.

NBC’s Mike Florio reported that a replay review was considered by the booth officials, but it was ultimately nixed because it wasn’t believed to be egregious enough to have a chance at being turned into pass interference.

The result was no penalty. Had it been a PI flag, it would have given the Cardinals an untimed down to kick a reasonable field goal and force overtime.

“Kind of turned into a scramble drill, I was coming back for the ball,” Cooper said of the play on Monday. “I thought I was about to come down with it once I was about to jump. Once I jumped to put my arms up, they were restricted. I didn’t even have a chance to catch the ball, make a play for it.

“At the end of the day, it shouldn’t come down to the last play. It is frustrating they didn’t call that,” he added. “Can’t go back, can’t replay it.”

Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury avoided questioning the officiating after the loss.

He did, however, point out that the Cardinals had been — to his knowledge — the first team that had been assessed a pass interference penalty via booth review after the initial ruling on the field was a no-call.

That distinction came on the second of two pass interference calls on the Buccaneers’ game-winning drive.

The first: With Arizona ahead 27-23, Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy picked up a pass interference penalty while covering Bucs receiver Mike Evans with just less than three minutes to play. It moved the ball from the Arizona 43 to its 27-yard line.

Later on the drive at the Cardinals’ 13-yard line, a booth review overturned an incomplete pass into pass interference on Arizona safety Jalen Thompson. He fell into the back of Evans’ legs in the end zone, and the reversed ruling gave Tampa Bay 12 of the final 13 yards en route to a go-ahead touchdown.

It at least appeared to be the right call.

“The loss is frustrating. You’d have to talk to the league office, kind of, on that topic,” he said of the reviews. “But it’s obviously tough to lose a game and I think everybody who follows the league when it comes to Jalen’s penalty knows that that hadn’t happened very often. I think ours we’re actually the first one that’s booth-initiated and a flag has been thrown like that.”

Arizona did get the benefit of a pass interference penalty on several key plays.

The Cardinals got a PI penalty on the Buccaneers on the fourth-to-last play of the game.

They drew another earlier in the fourth quarter on a fake punt. Punter Andy Lee completed a 4th-and-10 pass to Cooper, and Arizona declined the penalty with a first down in hand.

The very next play, the Cardinals picked up 25 yards when quarterback Kyler Murray targeted Larry Fitzgerald downfield. The Bucs’ M.J. Stewart was flagged for PI, and Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians lost a timeout on a failed challenge.

Said the former Cardinals head coach when asked if he understood the definition of pass interference: “No, I’m just going to keep challenging because if that wasn’t offensive pass interference on [wide receiver] Larry [Fitzgerald], I don’t know what is.”


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