NEW ORLEANS — It’s not often that you can get 73,000 people to all agree on something, but everybody inside the Mercedez-Benz Superdome definitely agreed on one thing after the Rams stunning on Sunday: The Saints got hosed by one of the worst no-calls in NFL history.
As you can see above, Nickell Robey-Coleman obliterated Lewis on a play that screamed pass interference. As a matter of fact, there really wasn’t anyone who didn’t think it was pass interference.
The 73,028 fans in attendance all thought it was pass interference. Saints coach Sean Payton thought it was pass interference. Drew Brees though it was pass interference. Heck, even Robey-Colman thought it was pass interference and the flag would have gone against him.
Unfortunately for the Saints, the only people alive who didn’t think the play warranted a pass interference penalty were the seven people who mattered: The seven officials on the field.
Before Sunday, I would’ve said that causing the cancelation of Mardi Gras would be about the only plausible way you could get everyone in New Orleans to hate you, but these officials did it with one blown call.
The no-call was so bad that the league office literally called Payton after the game to apologize about it.
“Just getting off the phone with the league office. They blew the call,” Payton said following the loss. “Man, there were a lot of opportunities though, but that call puts it first-and-10 and we’d only need three plays. It’s a game-changing call. That’s where it’s at, so it’s disappointing. For a call like that not to be made, it’s just hard to swallow.”
To make things worse, the NFL’s vice president of officiating, Al Riveron, actually admitted to Payton that there were a total of two missed penalties on the play.
“[The league] said not only was it interference, but it was helmet-to-helmet,” Payton said. “There were two calls [the refs missed], they couldn’t believe it. We spoke initially, then I called to follow up and the first thing Al said when I got on the phone, ‘We messed it up.'”
Payton is on the NFL’s competition committee and if they’re looking to make sure something like this never happens again, the solution is simple: Let every potential call be reviewable. Every. Single. One.
On the surface, this idea might sound crazy, but trust me, it makes a lot of sense. First, you wouldn’t change anything else about the replay system. The most important thing here is that coaches would still only get two challenges per game, which means the new replay system wouldn’t cause games to drag on forever. Also, the potential review of any controversial call that happens with under two minutes left to play in either half would still be the responsibility of the replay booth.
In the case of the NFC Championship, the replay assistant would have buzzed down to the field after the Robey-Coleman play and there would have been zero controversy. Vinovich would have spoken to the replay official and the two would have penalized the Rams for an obvious pass interference.
At that point, the Saints would have had a first down with 1:45 left to play and could have run at least 80 seconds off the clock since the Rams only had one timeout left.
Of course, the Saints wouldn’t have been the only ones to benefit from this new system if it had been in effect on Sunday. If it had been in place, Rams coach Sean McVay could have thrown his challenge flag after an obvious face-mask on Jared Goff went uncalled.
McVay also could have thrown his challenge flag after this obvious face-mask on Brandin Cooks also went uncalled.
This is one game and that’s three OBVIOUS flags that should have been thrown.
Although the NFL has been tinkering with the replay system since it was reinstituted in 1999, the league has refused to allow subjective penalties like pass interference to be reviewed, which makes no sense. If the NFL is worried that games will start to drag on, they can just look north. The CFL has been reviewing pass interference plays since 2014 and things seem to be working out alright for them.
The thing about reviewing something like pass interference is that a coach isn’t going to waste a challenge flag unless it’s an obvious call.
Of course, this simple proposal won’t help the Saints or the 73,028 fans who walked out of the dome in a total state of shock. It’s a good thing Bourbon Street is only a mile away from the Superdome, because that’s probably the kind of therapy Saints fans are going to need after Sunday’s stunning finish.