Two years later, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens feels the officials still got it right.
Hitchens found himself in the center of controversy after the Cowboys’ 24-20 victory over the Detroit Lions in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
Quick recap: Detroit had a third-and-1 from the Dallas 46 with 8:25 left in the game, and Matthew Stafford threw a pass to Brandon Pettigrew on the deep left side that hit Hitchens in the back.
The back judge flagged Hitchens for pass interference, a call that was announced by referee Pete Morelli and then marked off to give the Lions a first down. However, the head linesman ruled the contact was minimal and the officials reversed course, waving off the penalty with little explanation.
A couple days after the game, Hitchens felt the proper call had been made even though the NFL’s head of officials, Dean Blandino, said Hitchens should have been called for defensive holding.
“I think I did a pretty good job of closing the distance and at least trying to get my head turned around,” Hitchens said at the time. “So, overall, I think my technique was pretty decent. I can fight more to get my head turned around or close the gaps a little closer, just little things. You can always improve.”
With the Lions returning to town on Monday night for the first time since that game, that play came up again. And Hitchens maintained that it was a clean play.
“They didn’t throw the flag, so it wasn’t pass interference,” Hitchens said. “If they’d throw the flag, or kept the flag I should I say, it would’ve been pass interference. We just did man-to-man coverage, actually it wasn’t my guy who was running free, I seen him at the last second and tried to go pick him up so none of their guys were free. I was just trying to help out.”
Was he expecting a flag, though?
“Well, once I got up there wasn’t a flag, there was a delay and they threw a flag, and then they talked about it and picked it up,” Hitchens said. “That was that.”