Eleven months after watching the Rams escape New Orleans with a win thanks in large part to a highly controversial pass interference no-call, many Saints fans thought they were having deja vu on Sunday when the 49ers appeared to get away with pass interference on a pivotal play during the second half of San Francisco’s 48-46 win over the Saints.
On a fourth-and-18 with just over a minute to play in the third quarter, Saints coach Sean Payton called for a fake punt, and that’s when this happened. What you’re about to watch is Taysom Hill throwing a long pass to Saints receiver Tre’Quan Smith that ends up falling incomplete due to mostly to the fact that Smith was being smothered by 49ers defensive back Tarvarius Moore.
To most people watching the game, it looked like an obvious interference call.
Saints fans at the game got so upset with the no-call that they apparently started throwing their beers.
Thousands of fans on Twitter also reacted with total shock at the fact that a flag wasn’t thrown on Moore.
As it turns out though, the ruling of no pass interference on the play was actually correct due to a relatively unknown rule.
Under NFL rules, when a team lines up in punt formation, normal passing rules don’t apply to the widest man in the formation. Basically, this means that a defender can’t be called for pass interference against a gunner. If the rule wasn’t in place, teams would just throw it up to their gunner and look to draw a flag since the defender is almost never playing the ball. For the most part, the defender is trying to keep the gunner from tackling the returner, so the two players are in contact with each other at all times on the play, which is why neither side can be flagged for interference.
One person who definitely knew the rule was Moore, who sent out the tweet below after the game.
As for the Saints, Smith was well aware that he wouldn’t be getting any pass interference protections on the play.
“The receiver isn’t protected by that rule,” Smith said. “The only rule they are protected by is holding. I knew when he got hands on me and pushed me I knew the referee wasn’t going to call it. I definitely felt like it was holding, but that’s not my space to argue.”
Smith isn’t the only one who thought it was holding. Payton also pleaded his case during the game, but the refs refused to throw the flag. In the end, the fake punt failed, and the 49ers would capitalize by scoring a touchdown on their ensuing possession that gave them a 42-33 lead.