There is no pretense to throwing the football deep on offense. You either get a massive amount of yards in one shot and perhaps even a touchdown or nothing.
But there's also the side benefit that is often unspoken: the pass interference call.
Pass interference — the act of a defensive player preventing a receiver from catching a pass by making physical contact after the ball has been thrown — is a penalty that can salvage a moribund offensive possession. It's unpredictable, but the result can alter the momentum in a contest.
"You definitely can't rely on it, but it's something good to have," Ravens wide receiver Kamar Aiken said. "It's definitely a positive."
The Ravens benefited from a pair of pass interference calls in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 27-23 loss to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
The first penalty was assessed against cornerback Trevin Wade when he collided with wide receiver Breshad Perriman on a deep pass down the right sideline. The infraction helped the offense move from its own 28-yard line on third down-and-9 to New York's 30, and the Ravens eventually got a 35-yard field goal from Justin Tucker to narrow a four-point deficit to 17-16 with 9 minutes, 14 seconds left.
The second call also involved Perriman on another long run down the right side. This time, the transgression — called against cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie — moved the offense from the Giants' 38 to the 8, and three plays later, running back Terrance West scored on a 2-yard plunge into the end zone to give the Ravens a short-lived 23-20 lead with 2:04 remaining.
Although the end result was a loss, the Ravens have been aided by pass interference penalties this season. While they are tied for ninth in the NFL in pass interference calls in their favor with four, they rank third in yards gained with 105, trailing only the Green Bay Packers (239 yards) and the Washington Redskins (163), according to NFLPenalties.com.
And the New York Jets, the Ravens' opponent on Sunday, are tied for sixth-most defensive pass interference infractions in the league at five. Cornerback Buster Skrine has been flagged for pass interference three times, which is tied for the third-highest total in the NFL.
Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said sometimes a pass interference flag is just as good as a catch.
"It has the same amount of yards as completing it," he said. "It's a chunk of yards."
Perriman said he has been surprised at how much physical contact defensive players get away with at the professional level compared to the college ranks. But Perriman said the key is using the defenders' aggression against them.
"It depends on who you're playing against, but for the most part, a lot of corners are aggressive, and they try to play the ball," he said. "So I feel like it doesn't just have to be a deep route. I feel like it can be on any route."
The easiest pass interference call for an official is the one where a defensive player blatantly grabs a receiver to prevent a completion. But receivers can help their own cause by coming back for the ball. Because a defender usually has his back turned to the quarterback, a receiver is impeded from slowing down or coming back for the ball, and the subsequent collision draws a flag.
"That's anywhere in the league," Ravens wide receiver Mike Wallace said. "Any coach will tell you that. That's why we sometimes need to come back for the ball because I look at it as I have the defender beat and if I jump back for the ball and the defender's not even looking for the ball, you'll get pass interference easily. So when you throw it up there, you give yourself a big chance of either making the play or getting a P.I. It's like a 50-50 chance, maybe even a 60-40 chance in favor of the offense."
Perriman said the wideouts have spotted opportunities in post-game meetings when they should have come back for balls.
"There were some situations where we should have slowed ourselves down and come back and gotten the ball at its highest point and stuff like that," he said. "That's been a big focus point."
Pass interference has been a hot topic this week. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton reiterated his wish that pass interference penalties could be challenged after Kenny Vaccaro was cited while covering Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen even though the strong safety had his head turned and made a play for the ball on Sunday.
Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn went ballistic on the sideline after officials missed Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman's interference on Julio Jones that hampered the wide receiver's ability to catch a pass on the offense's final play of an eventual two-point win for Seattle.
Sherman, who denied interfering with Jones, argued that pass interference should be a 15-yard penalty on offense and defense. Currently, pass interference on the defense results in moving the ball to the spot of the foul for the offense.
And the Giants asked the NFL for clarification on Rodgers-Cromartie's penalty in the Ravens game. Several of his teammates questioned the ruling, calling it "horrible."
The incidents have stirred debate on whether pass interference should be reviewable, but the league's competition committee has consistently turned down that idea.
While Wallace and Aiken said they would oppose expanding replay because many of the pass interference calls are on the defense, Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall said he would be in favor of such a proposal.
"I just think it's good because a call like that can really change the course of a game," he said. "I think that given how important each game is, we should definitely review calls like that."
Pass interference in the NFL
Heavily criticized for tailoring the game to accommodate passing offenses, the NFL has come under recent scrutiny for some controversial pass interference penalties. The number of pass interference calls made and penalty yards assessed in the first six weeks of 2016 are the highest totals since at least 2009. Here is how the other seasons stack up through the first six weeks.
Year Number of pass interference calls Penalty yards
2009 61 994
2010 83 1,582
2011 70 1,118
2012 105 1,728
2013 94 1,623
2014 81 1,580
2015 81 1,523
2016 116 1,852