NEW ORLEANS – A day after her New Orleans Saints lost the NFC Championship Game due, in part, to a missed call by the officials, Saints team owner Gayle Benson issued a strong statement of disapproval on Monday.
“I am thoroughly disappointed by the events that led to the outcome of yesterday’s game,” the statement said, in part. “Getting to the Super Bowl is incredibly difficult to do and takes such an unbelievable commitment from a team and support from its fans. No team should ever be denied the opportunity to reach the title game (or simply win a game) based on the actions, or inactions, of those charged with creating a fair and equitable playing field. As is clear to all who watched the game, it is undeniable that our team and fans were unfairly deprived of that opportunity yesterday.
“I have been in touch with the NFL regarding yesterday’s events and will aggressively pursue changes in NFL policies to ensure no team and fan base is ever put in a similar position again. It is a disservice to our coaches, players, employees and, most importantly, the fans who make our game possible. The NFL must always commit to providing the most basic of expectations — fairness and integrity.”
Officials declined to throw a flag after Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman clearly hit Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis before the ball arrived on a third-and-10 pass. Had a penalty been called, the Saints would have been able to run the clock down before kicking a 31-yard field goal as time expired, which could have won the game and sent them to the Super Bowl.
Instead, they were forced to kick a field goal with 1:41 remaining, leaving time for the Rams to tie and force overtime, when the Saints went on to lose when they gave up a long field goal.
Saints head coach Sean Payton told reporters after the game he spoke with Alberto Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, who confirmed the incorrect non-call. Robey-Coleman admitted afterward he made contact before Lewis had a chance to catch the pass.
“Yes, I got there too early,” he said. “I was beat, and I was trying to save the touchdown.”
Referee Bill Vinovich briefly addressed the play during a postgame interview with a pool reporter.
“It was a judgment call by the covering official,” Vinovich said. “I personally have not seen the play. … It is not a reviewable play.”
The Washington Post reported Monday that the NFL will consider making pass interference a reviewable play this offseason.
“It will be discussed at length along with additional fouls that coaches feel should be subject to review,” a person familiar with the NFL’s inner workings told the Post.
Replay is not an option for pass interference and other “judgment calls” but was discussed as recently as March. To implement a rule allowing for pass interference to be validated by replay or expose this and other judgment calls to a coach’s challenge, at least three-quarters of the 32 owners must vote to approve the rule change.
–Field Level Media