Know The Rulebook: DPI

The Ruling On The Field Know The Rulebook: DPI

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Welcome to the first installment of ‘Know The Rulebook,’ where we’ve kindly taken the advice of a brazen cheater, who insisted the Ravens learn the rules. As we’re all well aware, the Ravens in fact do know the rules; however, there’s many a fan who jump and shout and scream in the stands or on their couches for a penalty. Sometimes, they’re right. Other times, they’re wrong because they simply don’t know the rules. Instead of further perpetuating that narrative, we’re here to help the Average Joe Fan learn the ins and outs of the NFL Rulebook.

Let’s start this series with one that often confuses fans: Defensive Pass Interference.

Here’s how the rule is defined by the Official NFL Rulebook:

“It is pass interference by either team when any act by a player more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage significantly hinders an eligible player’s opportunity to catch the ball. Pass interference can only occur when a forward pass is thrown from behind the line of scrimmage, regardless of whether the pass is legal or illegal, or whether it crosses the line.

Defensive pass interference rules apply from the time the ball is thrown until the ball is touched.

In short, the main 2 criteria that need met are 1) the ball is in the air, and 2) the contact is made beyond 1 yard past the LOS (line of scrimmage). If the contact is behind the LOS? No penalty. If the contact is made prior to the ball being released? It can either be no penalty at all, or holding (another rule for another time).

The Rulebook proceeds to go into details about prohibited acts that constitute PI versus permissible actions while the ball is in the air.

Cowboys LB Hitchens interferes with Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew in the Divisional Round of the 2014 playoffs.

Prohibited acts that result in DPI include:

– Contact by a player not playing the ball that restricts the other player’s ability to make a play
– Playing through the back (running over a player)
– Holding/grabbing an opponent’s arms
– Extending an arm across a player (arm bar) regardless of intent/playing the ball
– Cutting off an opponent’s path by making contact
– Hooking that results in twisting/turning an opponent
– Pushing off to create separation

Permissible acts that should not result in a flag for Defensive Pass Interference include:
– Incidental contact of hands/arms/body when both players are either going up for the ball, or neither is looking for the ball at all
– Inadvertent tangling of feet
– Pass is deemed uncatchable
– Laying a hand on the opponent when it does not restrict his ability to make a play on the ball
– Contact by player who has gained position, and is trying to make a play on the ball

The most common DPI call is the holding or grabbing of an opponent in order to restrict their ability to catch the pass or slow down their route. We also see a ton of short routes where the receiver cuts back on the ball, jumps into the defender, and draws a flag.

But is that technically Defensive Pass Interference? This specific play tends to draw plenty of ire from angry fans, as the defensive player is essentially helpless at this point of contact.

By rule, if the receiver is playing the ball, and defender is not, and the defender makes contact with the offensive player, the play should be ruled DPI. Inversely, if the receiver jumps into the defender in order to draw contact, it should not be ruled DPI. Unfortunately, this call is made far too often, and is a non-reviewable play (for now).

How do the Ravens fare with DPI?

Ravens CB Lardarius Webb draws a pass interference call against Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders.

Shocking- they were terrible.

According to the NFL Penalty Log, the Ravens committed  total of 15 DPI’s last season for 252 penalty yards, topping the NFL charts in both categories. On the other side of the ball, the team only drew 4 such penalties, tied for the 4th fewest in the league.

To really put it into perspective, here’s a DPI spray chart from 2015. Anybody want to take a wild guess which one is the Ravens?

DPI Spray

With a few new faces in the secondary (Weddle), new positions (Webb), and some consistency at the corner position, the hope is that the team will see less DPI’s in the 2016 season. On the offensive side, with the addition of Mike Wallace and (hopefully) Perriman, the team will get back that Torrey Smith-like ability to draw pass interference downfield with their new burners.

Of course, only time will tell. But looking at 2015’s numbers, there’s nowhere to go but up from here.

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Adam Bonaccorsi

About Adam Bonaccorsi

Known by his fellow 227ers at M&T Bank Stadium as “Are You Kidding Me?” Adam is a vocal and opinionated Baltimore sports fans, who appreciates thinking outside of the box and offering far-fetched perspectives that tend to leave readers left wondering ‘what if?’ or sometimes ‘seriously bro?’ and occasionally, ‘I’ll have what he’s drinking!’ Or just 4-letter expletive-laden responses. Those are the best.

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