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O'HARA: What we learned from League Meetings

Just when it looked like a proposal to add offensive and defensive pass interference to the NFL's list of plays that can be challenged and reviewed on instant replay was a dead issue, it was very much alive and well – and something we'll see in the 2019 season.

It passed by a 31-1 vote to be adopted on a trial basis for 2019.

Why the change of heart on the part of the league's 32 owners, when it seemed all week at the league's annual meetings at the Arizona Biltmore that it was a talking point that would go nowhere?

What we've learned is that the coaches were for it, and the owners listened to them. The loudest voice belonged to New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, whose team was victimized by a blatant no-call in the NFC Championship Game against the Rams that most likely kept the Saints from going to the Super Bowl.

Among the other things we learned include the following:

The new replay addition prompted immediate "remember how we got the shaft?" memories among followers of some teams, most notably the 2014 Detroit Lions.

A comment from first-year Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury about giving players cellphone breaks in meetings rang a bell (no pun intended) on how former Lions head coach Wayne Fontes was similarly in touch with his players a quarter century ago.

And how two Lions' role players might have enhanced or advanced roles based on head coach Matt Patricia's comments.

Despite the two months of unabated outrage over the no-call in the Rams-Saints game two months ago – one that left an ugly stain on this year's playoffs – there didn't seem to be enough support among the 32 owners to get the necessary 24 votes to pass the proposal to allow challenges for offensive and defensive pass interference.

Sometimes passion overrules common sense. My take is that there was a lot of both by coaches favoring the change, with Payton leading the way. Late Tuesday afternoon, it passed by a 31-1 vote.

Without getting into a full play-by-play of the final minutes of the game, suffice to say there were a lot of plays, good and bad, that produced the ultimate result: A 26-23 overtime win for the Rams. And there were some highly questionable coaching decisions by Payton.

But every fan watching on TV anywhere could see that Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman had interfered with Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis on the third-down play.

There was no gray area. It was as obvious as a 16-wheeler going through a red light at one mile an hour.

It should have been interference, first and goal for the Saints near the five-yard line with 1:45 left. Instead, the Saints kicked a field goal for a 23-20 lead that they could not hold in regulation time.

The bottom line: The play was a black eye for the league that had not gone away after two months. Ultimately, voices of reason, however passionate, were heeded and the proposal passed.

Replay, Lions: After Tuesday's vote, the Lions' 2014 playoff loss to the Cowboys came immediately to mind for a lot of people – including me – as an example of where a team was wronged by the rules.

On third and one at the Cowboys' 46 and the Lions holding a 20-17 lead with a little more than eight minutes left, Matthew Stafford lofted a pass meant for tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Take your pick of fouls: Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens tugged on Pettigrew's jersey and interfered with him.

A flag was thrown, and referee Pete Morelli announced a penalty on Hitchens for pass interference. First down Lions. However, after a meeting of officials, the flag was picked up. The Lions punted on fourth down and ultimately lost, 24-20.

Under the new rule, Lions head coach Jim Caldwell could have challenged the call and won. The Lions still might have lost – a short punt by Sam Martin and a holding penalty against DeAndre Levy contributed to the Cowboys' comeback win -- but justice would have been done with replay available.

Break time: Cellphones weren't nearly as popular during Wayne Fontes' tenure as head coach of the Lions (1989-96), but he probably would have been in line with Kliff Kingsbury's plan to give his players' breaks every 20 to 30 minutes to use their phones.

Fontes had a good feel for keeping his players happy, which is why they loved playing for him.

One example: On a day when the Lions were practicing on the outdoor field across from the Silverdome parking lot, Fontes noticed dark rain clouds moving in.

He blew the whistle and stopped practice – to give players time to put up the tops on their convertibles.

Never have players who did not own convertibles been so willing to help teammates who did.

Role playing: It's obvious that head coach Matt Patricia values production, and he indicated at his interview session Tuesday morning that he liked what he saw last season from running back Zach Zenner and rookie offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby.

After being waived injured, Zenner returned to play eight games with one start. He rushed for 255 yards and three touchdowns, with an average of 4.8 yards per carry. Zenner gained 237 of his yards and scored all three TDs in the last four games.

Crosby was drafted in the fifth round when the Lions were not looking to add an offensive lineman. His grade was too high for the Lions to pass on him, GM Bob Quinn said at the time.

Crosby played 128 snaps and showed promise. He was drafted as a tackle, but as Patricia indicated, he's likely to get some time at right guard, where T.J. Lang's retirement has left an opening for a new starter.

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