Posted on January 21, 2019, by Travis Pulver
The refs are on the field to make sure everyone plays a good, clean, and safe game. When they do their job, the best team wins and not the team that benefited from a bad call/non-call. But that wasn’t necessarily what happened in the NFC Championship Game Sunday afternoon in New Orleans.
With the game tied at 20-20 late in the fourth quarter, the Saints were in a position to take the lead. They had the ball on the Rams 13-yard line with a little less than two minutes to play when Drew Brees tried to connect with Tommylee Lewis on a third and ten play.
Knowing that he was beat, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman decided he better just take Lewis out and save the touchdown. So, he interfered with Lewis knowing that it would draw a pass interference call.
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But then the call never came.
“Came to the sideline, looked at the football gods and was like, `Thank you,” Robey-Coleman said after the game (ESPN). “I got away with one tonight.”
The Saints went on to kick the field goal and take the lead, but they left too much time on the clock. Sure enough, Rams quarterback Jared Goff was able to get the team in position for a last second field goal attempt and Greg Zuerlein didn’t disappoint.
However, had the call been made, the Saints would have had the ball inside the five-yard line. They could have scored a touchdown, they may have ended up kicking a field goal anyway, but they also would have been able to run most of the time off the clock.
A victory would not have been guaranteed, but it certainly would have been probable. To add insult to injury, after the game, a league official admitted to Saints head coach Sean Payton that the referees had blown the call (ESPN):
“It was simple. They blew the call. They said it should never have not been a call. They said not only was it interference, it was helmet-to-helmet. They just — they couldn’t believe it.”
However, while the Saints lost due in part to a blown non-call, they only have themselves to blame for the loss. They knew going in that they couldn’t settle for field goals. But then did just that on their first two possessions.
Had someone blocked Dante Fowler on that fateful play during overtime, maybe Drew Brees doesn’t throw the interception that leads to Zuerlein’s 57-yard game-winning field goal.
So, the Rams may not have been the best team on the field that day. But they walked off the field with the win—and that is all that matters in the end. They will face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta on February 3.
For the Saints, however, it will be back to the drawing board. But at least they know Drew Brees will be coming back. He has already stated that he is looking forward to making another run at the Super Bowl next year.