Keidel: Saints Are Right To Be Furious

Ref's Inexplicable Non-Call Costs New Orleans The Super Bowl

Jason Keidel
January 21, 2019 - 10:44 am
Dec 4, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) throws the ball during the second half at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots 26-10 won. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

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Stop whining. Right?

Wrong.

In case you were in a coma Sunday, there were two classic NFL games, the first time the AFC and NFC title games both went into overtime. The former was won by the Patriots in astonishing fashion. The latter was won by the refs, er, Rams.

Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis was sprinting down the right sideline, deep into Rams territory. Drew Brees hurled the football his way. Lewis was covered by Rams defender Nickell Robey-Coleman. But rather than make a play on the ball, swat it down or even intercept it, Coleman launched into Lewis and blasted him well out of bounds at the Rams' 5-yard line. 

If there were a textbook case of pass interference, this was it. So while we waited for a whistle or flag to follow, there was haunting silence from the refs. No whistle. No flag. No penalty. Had the refs done their job, the Saints would have had the ball first-and-goal at the 6-yard line with 1:45 left in the game. Since the Rams had just one timeout, the Saints could have bled the clock to about five seconds, then kicked a field goal and then packed their luggage for Atlanta, the site of this year's Super Bowl. 

By the way, not only do you and I know this was a historically egregious swallowing of the whistle, Robey-Coleman knows it, too. Even the Rams player who perpetrated the penalty admitted it was a crime by his locker. Speaking into a bouquet of microphones, Robey-Coleman thanked "the football gods" for not tossing a flag on a play he admits was clearly on the south side of NFL legal.

The non-call was so appalling even the NFL was in touch with an incensed Saints coach Sean Payton, who went ballistic on the field as the call was (not) made. The league told Payton what we already knew -- the refs blew two calls on one play. The first infraction was Robey-Coleman attacking Lewis on the field of play as a pass was headed his way. The second infraction was Robey-Coleman launching head first and smashing his helmet into Lewis.'

So the Saints were relegated to a short field goal. There was more than enough time for Rams quarterback Jared Goff to lead a charge back down to Saints territory, set up a Greg Zuerlein field goal and send the 23-23 game into overtime. Frankly, the Saints were finished after that. 

After most NFL playoff games, we drown you with stats and replays, give you, "Sure, the Saints blew a 13-0 lead, and a 20-10 lead," but no lead deserves to be smashed by a ref who doesn't do his job. If you need even more context on how dreadful, painful and impactful that one play was, consider that the Rams never had the lead all game until they won it in overtime. So after 60 minutes, the Los Angeles Rams were unable to score more points than the New Orleans Saints. They needed overtime -- and one galling non-call -- to even get to OT.

Instead of the Saints winning fairly, the Rams won a game they lost, and now we have to hear from those cackling conspiracy theorists. The Grassy Knoll gang who sees a cheat behind every tree, every door and every game. They think the world is flat, man never landed on the moon and that pro football referees are on the payroll of someone beyond the NFL. 

There's an epic chasm between seeing a phantom second shooter in 1963 and what we just saw in 2019.  So rather than basking in the aura of the first pair of NFL playoff games to reach overtime in the same day, we have to wonder what the hell just happened in the Superdome. 

On a bridge just outside New Orleans, a sign was flashing "WE WERE ROBBED." 

That is correct. And rather than taking this week to look at rosters and alignments, swim through the ocean of X's and O's, we are infuriated by sports injustice. The refs are there to make sure the calls are made, not to mimic Mr. Magoo. 

To be clear, most of us who were horrified by that NFL crime scene Sunday are not Rams or even Saints fans. Most of us don't give a hoot who gains the glory of winning or suffers the gory taste of defeat. We just want fair play for both teams, not refs who need iPhone-thick glasses.

So kudos to the Patriots, who earned their way to Atlanta. And good luck to the Rams, if there's any luck left to give. 

Twitter: @JasonKeidel