Saints Coach: Referee Chief Admitted They Missed One of the Most Blatant Calls Ever


Last year it was the Minneapolis Miracle, and this year it was the New Orleans no-call.

The football world outside of Los Angeles looked on in shock as the referees swallowed the whistle on one of the most blatant examples of pass interference play you’ll ever see. The Rams wound up winning the game 26-23 in overtime to advance to the Super Bowl.

Everyone in the building and watching on TV saw that it was pass interference except the only ones that matter — the referees.

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The play happened with 1:45 left in regulation and the score tied at 20. The Saints had the ball at the Rams 13. Saints quarterback Drew Brees through a short sideline pass to Tommylee Lewis, who was drilled by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman while the ball was in the air.

Robey-Coleman also made helmet-to-helmet contact on Lewis. Neither call was made. The Saints were forced to kick the field goal to take a 23-20 lead, but that gave the Rams 1:41 to march down the field for a game-tying 48 yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein to send it to overtime.

Had pass interference been called there, the game would have likely been over. It would have been first and 10 from about the 5-yard line. The Rams had just one time out so they would have only been able to stop the clock once. If they got the ball back, it would have been with precious few second left.

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It was so bad, the referees admitted they blew the call. According to Pro Football Talk, the NFL will release a statement Monday admitting the error.

“For a call like that not to be made, man, it’s just hard to swallow. And then to get a phone call …” Payton said, reported ESPN.  “We spoke initially, then I called to follow up. And the first thing (head of officials Alberto Riveron) said when I got on the phone — ‘We messed it up.'”

“Listen, it’s a hard job for those guys ’cause it’s happening fast. But I don’t know if there was ever a more obvious pass interference call that — here it is, the NFC Championship Game. So, it’s a tough one to swallow,” Payton added, according to ESPN.

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“It was simple. They blew the call. They said it should never have not been a call,” Payton said of the explanation, reported ESPN. “They said not only was it interference, it was helmet-to-helmet. They just — they couldn’t believe it.”

Payton added that the team will “probably never get over it.”

Apparently, one of the refs thought the pass was tipped, which it was not.

“I thought it was for a split-second; but the ref got up — when I got up, he said, ‘Incomplete,’ so I just was like, ‘Thank you,'” Robey-Coleman said, reported ESPN. “I didn’t look back at the ball. I didn’t play the ball. If I had played the ball, then it would’ve been a different story. … And then the ref said, like, it looked it was a tip. Like, it was, like, tipped. So I was like, ‘OK, cool.'”

Lewis was in shock, like everyone else.

“I feel like it was obvious. I mean, there it is. Everybody know it was obvious,” Lewis said. “I mean, there is nothing else. … I don’t know what else to say about it.”

Now, it’s true that the Saints had opportunities to win the game. They threw an ill-advised incomplete pass to Michael Thomas on first down just before that no-callm essentially giving the Rams a free time out. Coming out of the two-minute warning, they could have run the clock down there or forced the Rams to use their last time out. But that’s no excuse, as a PI call there would have basically ended the game outside of a Rams miracle.

In OT, the Saints won the coin flip, but Brees threw an interception to John Johnson, which put the Rams at about mid field. A few plays later, Zuerlein hit a 57-yard field goal to win it.

So what was Rams coach Sean McVay’s reaction to the controversy?

“I thought it was a bang-bang type play. The one thing I respect about the refs today is that they let the guys compete and they let the guys play. I thought Nickell Robey made a nice play. They snapped it on a quick snap, had a little wheel route coming out of the backfield. Thought it was a competitive type play. Certainly I’m not going to complain about the way that was officiated. I thought that it was a competitive play,” McVay said, according to USA Today.

They let them play all right — and the result was one of the worst big game calls in league history.

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Dave is a lifelong sports fan who has been writing for The Wildcard since 2017. He has been a writer for more than 20 years for a variety of publications.
Dave has been writing about sports for The Wildcard since 2017. He's been a reporter and editor for over 20 years, covering everything from sports to financial news. In addition to writing for The Wildcard, Dave has covered mutual funds for Pensions and Investments, meetings and conventions, money market funds, personal finance, associations, and he currently covers financial regulations and the energy sector for Macallan Communications. He has won awards for both news and sports reporting.
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