Referee Pete Morelli explains picked-up flag in Wild Card game

By Nick Shook |
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In the confusing aftermath of the final minutes of the Dallas Cowboys‘ 24-20 Wild Card win over the Detroit Lions, the officiating crew assigned to the game made an attempt to clarify just what happened.

Referee Pete Morelli spoke with reporter Todd Archer following the game and described how the officials decided to pick up a flag that had initially been declared as pass interference on the CowboysAnthony Hitchens.

“The back judge threw his flag for defensive pass interference,” Morelli told Archer, via a pool report released by the Cowboys. “We got other information from another official from a different angle that thought the contact was minimal and didn’t warrant pass interference.”

The other official Morelli referred to was head linesman Jerry Bergman, who thought the play was “face-guarding,” according to Morelli. Face-guarding is illegal in college football, but not in professional football.

Morelli announced the infraction as defensive pass interference before picking up the flag with no explanation, prompting confusion and outrage from the Lions and many of those watching the game. In explaining the sequence of events, Morelli acknowledged he likely should have waited for all information before announcing the call.

“Probably, yes,” Morelli said. “The information came and then the officials got together a little bit later, after it was given to me, the first information. It would have probably been smoother if we got together.”

Morelli went on to reassert that the official with the better view of the play was Bergman.

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