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New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton believes pass interference challenges can become more consistent with added observers

Check out the Saints coaches and staff as they prepare for Week 12 between the Saints and Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Check out the Saints coaches and staff as they prepare for Week 12 between the Saints and Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Three heads would be better than one.

Not that New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton was criticizing the job that Al Riveron, NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating, has done with regard to handling replay pertaining to offensive and defensive pass interference.

But the Saints twice found themselves on the short end of the replay in Sunday's 34-31 victory over Carolina in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and overall, perhaps were fortunate to survive them.

The consensus belief is that the league has been extremely conservative when it has come to overturning calls made on the field. But after that form held in the first quarter for the Saints, it didn't in the fourth quarter for Carolina.

In the first quarter, with 7:54 left, tight end Jared Cook was penalized for offensive pass interference on a 42-yard, catch-and-run hookup with Drew Brees. The Saints challenged the call on the field, and it was upheld and the penalty was enforced.

New Orleans' drive ended with a punt, but the Saints immediately regained possession when Thomas Morstead's 51-yard punt bounced off the leg of Panthers safety Rashaan Gaulden. The Saints used their second challenge to establish possession; the on-field call, which was overturned, was that the ball hadn't touched a Panther and that the punt had been downed by New Orleans.

In the fourth quarter, rookie defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson made contact with receiver Jarius Wright while Wright was crossing the field right to left on a shallow pattern. On the field, officials ruled an incompletion. Carolina challenged and the call was reversed to defensive pass interference, giving the Panthers first-and-goal from the 3-yard line.

The Saints proceeded to produce a stop (on third down, Marcus Davenport had a 6-yard sack) and the Panthers missed what would have been a lead-taking field goal with 1:56 remaining.

Payton said that more input on the decision-making likely would produce decisions that are more consistent.

"I think it's real simple. It doesn't have to be a committee; I don't like committees," Payton said. "I would say this, I just think it's quiet and singular. And so, I think when you look around at college and the CFL, you see a triangle of experts. You're going to find a more consistent (decision), and you have the ability to reference prior calls.

"I know when we put together a third-down plan, I might have a few ideas but I'm going to ask (offensive coordinator) Pete (Carmichael), or (quarterbacks coach) Joe (Lombardi), 'What do you guys think?' That interaction helps you arrive at better decisions and I think clearly, we would benefit from that.

"I just think it would help with a more consistent decision."

Payton, a member of the league's Competition Committee, said the possibility of adding more people to that part of the process is something that could be discussed this offseason. The Competition Committee helped establish the basis for the current format last offseason, when the NFL added offensive and defensive pass interference calls to the challenge system. Coaches can challenge the call in each half until the two-minute warning; once the two-minute warning comes, only the replay officials from New York can determine whether a call should be reviewed.

"I don't know that it's a Competition Committee (decision)," Payton said. "It's just something we've discussed. It's not new relative to anyone making decisions, all the way to, we don't have one Supreme Court justice. That's obviously the most important, or the highest. (But) I think it merits three experts. I think it'll help immensely.

"And Al's outstanding. I think he's got a tough job and I think when you have a group of three, I think you're going to arrive at more consistent calls."

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