So, let’s talk about the biggest story coming out of the NFL championship weekend. It wasn’t Tom Brady beating the odds and taking the Patriots to another Super Bowl.
It was a blatant pass interference call that was missed in the final two minutes of the NFC championship game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints.
It was third down, with a tie score at 20-20 between both teams. During the play, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman initiated helmet to helmet contact against Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis, knocking him to the ground.
However, there was no flag thrown. In the NFL, plays are not able to be challenged by a coach during the final two minutes of play, so nothing could be done.
Sean Payton, head coach of the Saints, and Lewis were befuddled. Robey-Coleman got away with the heist of the century, and he knew it.
The Saints were forced to kick a field goal to gain a three-point lead. However, this gave the Rams enough time to march to the red zone and make a field goal of their own that sent the game into overtime.
In OT, quarterback Drew Brees threw an interception and gave the Rams a chance to score, which they did with another field goal.
A fantastic season for the Saints ended and the Rams punched their ticket to their first Super Bowl in almost two decades.
Yet the debate and conversation surrounding the missed call still go on. Payton said he will “never get over” the non-call, and various players and figures from other sports have made their voices heard.
An Enraged New Orleans
A noted car dealer has bought several billboards surrounding his dealerships to display messages of disappointment and frustration at the NFL.
There are also lawsuits being filed against the league, asking them to overturn the result of the game or schedule a rematch. This could be done with an obscure clause in the NFL rulebook.
Rule 17, Section 2, Article 1 states that:
“The Commissioner has the sole authority to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary and/or corrective measures if any club action, non-participant interference, or calamity occurs in an NFL game which the Commissioner deems so extraordinarily unfair or outside the accepted tactics encountered in professional football that such action has a major effect on the result of the game.”
Several spectators and Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas have tweeted the clause directly to the Twitter of Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL.
The outrage has spread to the Louisiana government, as Gov. John Bel Edwards filed a formal complaint to the NFL, stating:
“On behalf of the people of Louisiana and New Orleans Saints fans all across the country, I am writing to you to express our deep disappointment with the outcome of the NFC Championship game on Sunday,” Edwards said in his open letter.
Andrew Whitworth, a veteran player and left tackle for the Rams, mentioned that the pass interference was not the only missed call of the game during an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show.
He noted that Rams quarterback Jared Goff got a facemask on a second down in the possession just before the pass interference. This wasn’t called on the Saints defense.
“My argument to that would be, Rich, is then Jared Goff got a facemask on the second down on the possession before that was not called,” Whitworth said, via the Turf Show Times. “That’d be first-and-goal at the 1 down three points. If you look at our odds from the 1 this season, that’s seven points. So, they’d be down four, and a field goal wouldn’t matter. They would have had to score in that situation either way.”
Now, I stand by the opinion that one bad call or one bad play doesn’t tell the whole story of a game, or cost a team a win. The Saints weren’t able to capitalize on opportunities or make the necessary defensive plays throughout the game, and it kept the score close.
Even in overtime, the Saints got the ball first and weren’t able to score, while the Rams responded with a score.
Yet, I see the point made by Payton and others in the Saints organization. Say Robey-Coleman gets flagged, that means the Saints get three more downs and a better chance to score six points instead of three. Furthermore, it allows them to run down the clock so the Rams can’t rebuttal with their own field goal.
At the end of the day, the Saints couldn’t get the job done during the first 58 minutes of the game. And one absolutely horrible call in the final two minutes doesn’t change that.
However, as of the time of writing, the NFL has not responded publicly to the controversy, and it is unlikely that anything will happen besides the offending referees being penalized in some way.