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One approved rule change will probably make Patriots head coach Bill Belichick quite happy

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The league recently voted to expand replay, at least for a year.

New England Patriots Media Availability Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

For years, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots tried pushing the NFL towards making every single play reviewable. And for years, the league’s best head coach’s attempts to initiate a rule change failed — to a point where the Patriots organization simply stopped submitting the seemingly hopeless proposal. The idea is gaining some traction again, however, as a look at a recently approved rule change proposal shows:

6c. By Competition Committee; For one year only, expands the reviewable plays in Instant Replay to include pass interference, called or not called on the field. Also expands automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, and any Try attempt (extra point or two-point conversion).

The rule, which was approved 31-1 with the lone dissenting vote coming from the Cincinnati Bengals, is an indirect result of the 2018 NFC Championship Game: had a rule like this been in place, it would have allowed the New Orleans Saints to initiate a review of the now-infamous pass interference no-call that happened in the fourth quarter and ultimately helped the Los Angeles Rams come away victoriously and advance to the Super Bowl.

Now, the clubs voted to try a new rule for one year — and Belichick and the Patriots are probably quite happy about it. After all, they were on the barricades for an expansion of the review rules ever since the 2005 playoffs when a no-call on an interception returned that ended with a fumble that could have been ruled a touchback upon second look contributed to New England losing in the divisional round against the Denver Broncos.

While we are still far from Belichick’s plan to make every play reviewable becoming reality — a proposal that was introduced by Washington but ultimately not approved — the recent rule change is another step in that direction.


All in all, seven rule modification were approved on Tuesday:

1. By Competition Committee; Makes permanent the kickoff rule changes that were implemented during the 2018 season.

2. By Competition Committee; Expands protection to a defenseless player.

3. By Competition Committee; Changes the enforcement of double fouls when there is a change of possession.

4. By Competition Committee; Simplifies the application of scrimmage kick rules for missed field goals.

5. By Competition Committee; Allows teams to elect to enforce on the succeeding try or on the succeeding free kick an opponent’s personal or unsportsmanlike conduct foul committed during a touchdown.

6c. By Competition Committee; For one year only, expands the reviewable plays in Instant Replay to include pass interference, called or not called on the field. Also expands automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, and any Try attempt (extra point or two-point conversion).

16. By Competition Committee; to amend Rule 15, Section 1, Article 5 to allow League personnel to disqualify for both flagrant football and non-football acts.

The meeting also resulted in the modification of six bylaws and two resolutions, which can be looked at here.