By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
FOXBORO (CBS) — Following a 21-13 loss to the Patriots, the L.A. Chargers had a lot to regret.
From committing 10 penalties for 77 yards, to missing a field goal, to failing to cover Rob Gronkowski in the end zone, to not getting out of bounds in the final minutes, to running backward into the end zone for a safety on a punt return, the mistakes were plentiful.
But according to Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, the offensive pass interference penalty on Tyrell Williams — which negated a 41-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin — should not have been called.
“Yeah, well we scored twice and they got taken off, so … I don’t think they were necessarily left off; they got taken off,” Rivers said, referencing the offensive pass interference penalty as well as an illegal touching penalty on Williams which wiped a 42-yard touchdown pass. “We scored twice and got both of them taken off the board.”
Regarding the offensive pass interference penalty, when Williams picked cornerback Johnson Bademosi on a crossing route to help spring Benjamin free, Rivers said he expects the league to admit that the penalty should not have been called.
“It is frustrating though, especially on the Travis one, because I just, I think that’s going to be one we’re going to hear back from [the league] to say that they weren’t right,” Rivers said. “But it’s too late.”
The touchdown would have cut New England’s lead to 18-13, pending an extra point or more likely a two-point conversion to try to make it a three-point game with just under 18 minutes left in the game. Instead, Williams dropped a pass on third-and-13, and the Chargers punted.
Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn also didn’t agree with the call on Williams.
“I did not,” Lynn said when asked if he thought it was a penalty. “But, you know, I have to see the tape before I make that decision. You know, the referee called it, he saw what he saw. But I know we are going to always go at that angle and then try get out the way, so that we don’t pick. That’s what we practice. Tyrell said that’s what he did. But I don’t know, we will see. That was a big play of the game, I can tell you that.”
The matter of pick plays and offensive pass interference is always one that inspires debate. Sometimes it’s called strictly, penalizing any contact from a receiver on a defensive player. Other times, contact can be deemed incidental if a receiver at least makes it appear as though he’s trying to avoid contact.
On the play in question on Sunday, Williams unquestionably made contact with Bademosi:
It’s just not a play that’s called a penalty 100 percent of the time, thus leading to the room for disagreement..
Fortunately, football philosopher Bill Belichick also happened to be asked about such plays, as simultaneous crossing patterns by Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen helped spring Gronkowski open for his touchdown in the game.
While the Gronkowski touchdown was a much more condensed play call than the nullified Benjamin touchdown, Belichick’s answer to the question of how he coaches his team in such situations proved relevant.
“Look, we’ve been working on that for 17 years. It’s not a new rule. It’s not a new situation,” Belichick said. “There’s been some modifications in the rule over the last couple of years. We’ve coached through those about legal picks within a yard of the line of scrimmage and things like that. The rule has been cleaned up a little bit. I think it’s been officiated well and so we’ve got to do what we’re allowed to do and not do what we’re not allowed to do. It’s been coached like that for a lot of years. It’ll continue to be coached like that and hopefully we can do a better job of coaching it so we can avoid those penalties.”