Defensive pass interference is called when a defensive player interferes with a receiver's attempt to catch the ball. If the defender makes contact with the receiver, it is pass interference, unless the contact is incidental, or done in order to make a play on the ball. For example the defensive player can knock the ball down, even if he has to contact the receiver to do it. But he cannot push the receiver, trip him, grab his arm, pull his shirt, etc. Typically referees will call pass interference if the defensive player makes contact with the receiver but is not looking back at the ball.
When defensive pass interference is called, the offense receives an automatic first down, and the ball is placed where the interference occurred. If the interference occurs in the end zone, the ball is placed on the one yard line. Pass interference cannot be challenged once called.
In college football, the penalty is 15 yards. In the NFL, the penalty is 10 yards.
In both college and the NFL, personal fouls (such as unnecessary roughness, grabbing the facemask, clipping, roughing the passer/kicker) and unsportsmanlike conduct. In college, offensive pass interference is a 15 yard penalty and defensive pass interference is 15 yards if the foul occurred 15 or more yards past the line of scrimmage (otherwise, the ball is placed at the spot of the foul). In the NFL, offensive pass interference is a 10 yard penalty and, for defensive pass interference, the ball is placed at the spot of the foul.
In the NFL, the ball is spotted when wherever the pass interference penalty occurred and is an automatic first down. In NCAA football, the ball is spotted wherever the penalty occurred up to 15 yards and is an automatic first down.
No. At one time, the college rule was a spot foul and the NFL rule was a 15-yard penalty. It is now the other way around.
The longest penalty in an NFL game is undefined. A defensive pass interference penalty is assessed from the line of scrimmage to the spot of the foul. If the spot of the foul is 30 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, the penalty is 30 yards. If the spot of the foul is 18 yards past the line of scrimmage, the penalty is 18 yards. If the spot of the foul is 9 yards past the line of scrimmage, the penalty is 9 yards. A defensive pass interference penalty is the only penalty that can be longer than 15 yards.
Lawyrence Taylor (retired) is the best defensive tackle in the NFL.