NFL pundits and fans were bewildered during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s NFC Wild Card Game, when Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew ran a route on third down and appeared to be obstructed by Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who never turned to face the ball while it was in the air. An official threw a flag, and the referee called out a pass interference penalty, which would have given the Lions a pivotal first down.
Then, for reasons unclear, the flag was picked up and the penalty wasn’t enforced.
All this happened in a few madcap seconds, during which Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant ran on to the field, without his helmet on, to argue the initial call with the officials. Bryant wasn’t penalized for this.
It was an absolutely pivotal moment in the game, with the Lions up 20-17 with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. The play was on third down, and after the call was reversed, the Lions were forced to punt. After a penalty and poor punt, they only gained five yards of field position on the play.
The Cowboys would go on to win the game 24-20.
Everyone on Twitter was very confused by the whole thing.
The interference call wasn’t 100% clear cut — there was a lot of contact on both sides. But because Hitchens didn’t turn around to see the ball, it was probably a penalty. The confusing thing was that the refs didn’t feel the need to explain the reversal.
One Cowboys fan on Twitter pointed out that Pettigrew appeared to grab Hitchens’ facemask on the play. If that was the case, it could have been offsetting penalties, but that was never explained.
Samuel L. Jackson, for one, demands an explanation.