Commentary

Quick Reads: An interference offense?

Big play prods an inquiry into the strategic value of pursuing penalties

Updated: October 18, 2010, 12:33 PM ET
By Bill Barnwell | Football Outsiders
HolmesAP Photo/Barry GutierrezThis play, and The Sports Guy, prompted an in-depth strategic study.

The most important play in Sunday's Broncos-Jets game didn't officially happen, but it might be the basis for an entire offensive scheme. The 46-yard pass interference penalty in the fourth quarter drawn by Santonio Holmes against Broncos safety Renaldo Hill on fourth-and-6 turned what looked to be a sure Jets loss into a miracle win. But in the NFL play-by-play, you'll find it listed as "No Play." Neither Holmes nor Mark Sanchez get credit for the yardage, even though it moved the ball just as effectively as a catch in the same situation would have.

When it comes to adding these yards into a player's total, we've come down on the agents' side. Those yards should belong to Holmes, who was prevented from making a catch by Hill, who grabbed his facemask. But after the pass interference penalty totally shifted the course of the game, both Football Outsiders' Tim Gerheim (via e-mail) and ESPN's Bill Simmons (via Twitter) wondered whether a team could build an offense around drawing pass interference penalties.

The answer depends on how frequently you can draw them. And our research shows such a strategy to be an ill-advised proposition.


To find out if a pass interference scheme can work and see the week's best and worst performers -- from Deion Branch to Miles Austin, plus what the Eagles should do with Michael Vick next week -- you must be an ESPN Insider.

Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) is a staff writer for Grantland.