On Sunday, January 20 a football game was played between the Los Angeles Rams, and the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The game meant a lot for both teams, it was the NFC Championship Game. The NFC Championship Game is part of the National Football League’s playoffs, and it functions as a semi-final. The winner of this game gets to go to the Super Bowl while the loser is sent home. The NFC Championship Game had very high stakes, because of the chance to go to the Superbowl and every play mattered, as did every call.
In the final four minutes, the game was tied at 20-20. The New Orleans Saints had a chance to score a touchdown, and kick the extra point, making the score 27-20 Saints and giving the Rams too little time to score a touchdown to force overtime. The Saints were at the 13 yard line when their first two tries at advancing the ball to a first down failed. This made it third down and ten, meaning they have to get ten yards to reset the number of chances they have. If they get the ten yards, they will be at the three yard line making it much easier to score a touchdown, so they needed this play. The Saints ran a pass play and threw it about ten yards downfield. If receiver Tommylee Lewis had caught the ball, the Saints would be at the three yard line and it would be first down. While the ball was in the air, Rams defensive player Nickell Robey-Coleman knocked Tommylee Lewis over in what seemed like a crystal clear act of pass interference. Pass interference is a penalty in football where the defensive player stops the offensive player from catching a pass by going directly at the offensive receiver, instead of going at the ball.
As soon as the hit happened, everyone expected yellow flags to fly onto the field, but none did. Everyone was surprised, especially the announcers, “That should have been a penalty, and Sean Payton is justifiably upset,” said Troy Aikman an announcer for Fox Sports. The consequence of a pass interference is the ball gets placed at the spot of the foul, and the the offense gets three more chances to get ten yards. The Saints would be put right at the three yard line, and it is a given that they would have scored, with one of the leagues top offenses. Even if they settle for a field goal, the Saints would have shaved more time off the clock. As it is, the Rams kicked the game-tying field goal with only 19 seconds left on the clock, so if the Saints had taken only a little more time off the clock before kicking a field goal, they would have won. Because the the pass was incomplete, the Saints had to kick a three point field goal, making the game 23-20. With 1:40 left on the clock, the Rams had one final chance to get close enough to kick a field goal to tie and force overtime, or miraculously score a touchdown, leaving far too little time for the Saints to do anything with the ball. The Rams got down far enough to kick a last second field goal tying the game and forcing overtime. The Rams would wind up winning in overtime, leaving Saints fans extremely frustrated about the ‘no call’ as it would soon be called.
Saints fans and players have been understandably outraged, and even Nickell Robey-Coleman, the player that made the big hit admitted that it should have been a penalty. “I put him on a Waffle House frying pan! … Sometimes, we’d rather take a flag and hit somebody than somebody catch and score on us.” What Robey-Coleman is saying is that he intentionally hit the Saints receiver, in order to keep him from scoring a touchdown.
The controversy has lead to continued protests, and numerous people speaking out. Saints star receiver Michael Thomas tweeted “Rule 17 Section 2 Article 3” and tagged the NFL. The article is labeled “Penalties for Unfair Acts,” and states that the commissioner has the power to impose “the reversal of a game’s result or the rescheduling of a game, either from the beginning or from the point at which the extraordinary act occurred.” But the NFL never budged, except for admitting to head coach Sean Payton that it was in fact pass interference. A New Orleans attorney who is a saints “superfan” is suing the NFL for fraud. Many New Orleans newspapers don’t have any coverage of the Super Bowl, because of the opinion that the Saints were robbed of a spot in the most watched event in America. Signs were put up around New Orleans reading “We Were Robbed.” There was a protest where Saints fans gathered on Super Bowl Sunday, chanting in protest of the blown call, and of Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, for not having the call be reversed.
Through all of this protesting and anger, has come a few good solutions, mainly a new rule that would be introduced allowing for penalties to be reviewed by a review team in New York, during the final two minutes of a game. This proposed rule change sounds very reasonable, especially considering how a late call can influence a team's season when every play counts. Last year, during the AFC Championship Game, there was also a controversial pass interference call, when the defensive player did not deserve a flag. Despite this reasonable proposed rule, commissioner Roger Goodell said that the plays were judgement calls and were not up for review. The no call has put the NFL under lots of scrutiny, and hopefully, they will be able to resolve this issue so it does not happen again.