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NFL's New Pass Interference Challenge Rule Explained

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 20:  A referee watches as Tommylee Lewis #11 of the New Orleans Saints drops a pass broken up by Nickell Robey-Coleman #23 of the Los Angeles Rams during the fourth quarter in the NFC Championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 20, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 20, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

It took all of one game for there to be significant confusion around the NFL's new rule that makes pass interference, one of the most difficult calls to make in the game, reviewable. The Denver Broncos' pass interference challenge, issued by head coach Vic Fangio during Thursday's Hall of Fame Game, specifically disputed a call against defensive back Lincoln Stephens in the Hall of Fame game against the Atlanta Falcons, but the ruling on the field was upheld.

Can Pass Interference Be Challenged in the NFL?

Yes, for the first time ever. The change was official in June following the Saints-Rams NFC Championship debacle, and applies to both calls and non-calls.

Yeah, remember that one? Nickell Robey-Coleman basically can't show his face in New Orleans ever again.

How Does the New NFL Pass Interference Challenge Rule Work?

A pass interference penalty or non-call can be disputed via a coach's challenge just like any other applicable situation. In the second and fourth quarters after the two-minute warning, the replay booth official can stop the game when there is "clear and obvious visual evidence" in relation to a PI penalty or non-call.

According to the NFL, the criteria to stop a game and review will be stricter than most other reviewable plays. In addition, any Hail Mary play at the end of a half or game will be officiated under the exact same guidelines as any other play on the field.

Interestingly enough, these changes have only been put into effect for the 2019 season-- at least for now.

This could really slow down games near the end of halves, and it will take a while to work out the kinks. But at the very least, what happened in January in New Orleans can't happen again in the new season.