NEW ORLEANS — After the “no-call heard ’round the world” in last season’s NFC championship game arguably cost the New Orleans Saints a trip to the Super Bowl, it doesn’t take much to rile up their fan base.
So when Saints receiver Tre’Quan Smith was clearly being held by Tarvarius Moore — clutched is the better word — during a pass late in the third quarter of New Orleans’ shootout against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, they couldn’t help but expect a flag.
And when it didn’t come … well, you can imagine the boos that filled the Superdome while replays of the play continued to be shown on the stadium’s massive dual scoreboards.
As Fox Sports rules analyst Dean Blandino would later explain on the telecast, the referees got it right.
Fake punt/pass by Taysom Hill. Great throw to Tre’Quan Smith... but the 49ers DB is allowed to bear-hug him so he can’t get back to ball.— Jeff Nowak (@Jeff_Nowak) December 8, 2019
Sean Payton yells: “That was holding!”
The NFL rules are a complete mess. And it just never seems to not make sense in the #Saints’ benefit pic.twitter.com/6OCWt5Mvnu
Here’s why: the pass play came on a punt, and there is no pass interference on gunners on punts, despite the fact it was thrown by backup quarterback Taysom Hill, who aligned as the punter on the play.
“This is absolutely the correct ruling,” Blandino began on the telecast. “When you’re in a punt formation and you attempt a fake, you can’t have pass interference on the widest man on either side of the formation.”
Nevertheless, Saints coach Sean Payton was enraged on the sideline, and he appeared to be asking for a hold, which could conceivably apply on a punt. He didn’t get that call — which couldn’t be reviewed — and the game continued.
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