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Head of NFL officiating says Cowboys should have been flagged for defensive holding

According to NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino, officials should not have picked up the flag on the critical defensive call.

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Ever since referees inexplicably picked up a critical pass interference flag that helped the Dallas Cowboys rally against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, we've heard from a steady stream of people criticizing the no-call: former refs, coaches, players, etc. On Monday, we finally heard from NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino, who said a penalty for defensive holding should have been called on the Cowboys defensive back.

On an appearance on Pro Football Talk Live, Blandino said that Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens should have been penalized for tugging on the jersey of Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew.

Officials initially did throw a flag and announced defensive pass interference, which would have given the Lions a first down with just over eight minutes remaining. But without explanation, the flag was waved off, setting up a fourth-and-1. Detroit punted and Dallas promptly drove downfield for the game-winning touchdown.

Blandino admitted it was a "close call that could have went either way," but noted the refs should have done a better job of communicating among themselves and with the crowd.

Some have said that Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant should have been flagged for running onto the field and arguing about the initial interference call. While Blandino stated that doing so is not automatically a penalty, he "certainly would have supported a call for unsportsmanlike conduct." Ultimately, like the holding non-call, the decision came down to the discretion of the head linesman.

Pete Morelli, the head ref for the game, explained the decision on Sunday.

"The back judge threw his flag for defensive pass interference. We got information from another official from a different angle that thought the contact was minimal and didn't warrant pass interference. He thought it was face guarding."