Saints-Cowboys officiating crew criticized after brutal blindside block penalty: ‘Worst call I’ve ever seen’



In the era of hot takes and hyperbole, it’s easy to get swept up in the moment and declare that something is the “worst.” On Thursday night, plenty of folks were quick to point out that the Saints may have gotten hit with the worst penalty of the 2021 NFL season, and… actually, they may be right on this one.

During the third quarter of New Orleans’ 27-17 loss to Dallas, Saints tight end Garrett Griffin was penalized for a blindside block while trying to protect quarterback Taysom Hill from Cowboys defensive back Jayron Kearse. Hill completed a pass to Deonte Harris for a first down, but the play was wiped out by the flag, which pushed the Saints back deep into their own territory. They punted the ball away three plays later.

MORE: Updated playoff picture after Cowboys’ win over Saints

So, what does the NFL consider a blindside block? From the league’s rulebook:

It is a foul if a player initiates a block when his path is toward or parallel to his own end line and makes forcible contact to his opponent with his helmet, forearm, or shoulder.

Note: It is not a foul for a blindside block if the forcible contact occurs in “close-line play” prior to the ball leaving that area. The ball is not considered to have left that area if the player who takes the snap, either from a shotgun position or from under center, retreats in the pocket immediately or with a slight delay, and hands the ball to another player, or runs with the ball himself. This exception does not apply to any action other than a designed play. Any forcible contact in “close-line play” is still subject to the restrictions for crackback and peel back blocks.

Saints coach Sean Payton clearly disagreed with the interpretation of Griffin’s block, as he could be seen during the Fox broadcast screaming at anyone wearing stripes.

“That’s a terrible call,” Fox analyst Troy Aikman said. “I don’t blame Sean Payton. Just a terrible call.”

After the game, Payton told reporters that he did not receive an explanation for the penalty, seemingly dodging questions in order to avoid getting fined.

“I’m not real familiar with that type of block on that situation,” Payton said.

Unlike Payton, everyone in the NFL Twitterverse didn’t hold back. Multiple former NFL players criticized the officiating crew, including longtime offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, who said the blindside block penalty was the “worst call I’ve ever seen.”

Media members were similarly baffled by the call.

That penalty wasn’t the only reason the Saints lost — Hill threw four interceptions, including a pick-six late in the fourth quarter — but it certainly didn’t help their cause.





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