NFC Championship Game No-Call


DOWN GO THE SAINTS: After a terrible no-call, who is to blame for their NFC Championship meltdown?

Charlie Buttler, Staff Writer

It might have been the worst no-call in the history of the National Football League. However, the implications of the play, what was on the line, and what resulted have all allowed the referee’s decision to be blown completely out of proportion.

Just a few weeks ago, the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams were battling in the 2019 National Football Conference Championship game, with a trip to Super Bowl 53 on the line. Nearing the end of a hard fought game, the score was 20-20 and it was third and 10 for the Saints on the Rams’ 13 yard line when quarterback Drew Brees floated a pass down the right side line to receiver Tommylee Lewis. As he was preparing to catch the ball and head into the end zone, he was wiped out by a helmet-to-helmet hit from Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, which prevented him from catching the ball.
On the play, there should have been two penalties called against the defender. The first was pass interference, as Robey-Coleman illegally prevented Lewis from catching the ball. The second, was unnecessary roughness, as the defender led with his helmet into the receiver’s head and neck area. After the blatant no call, the Saints had to settle for a field goal, giving the Rams enough time to tie the game up and eventually win in overtime. Had the pass interference been called, the Saints could have ran the clock down all the way to four seconds and kicked a chip-shot field goal that would have taken them to the Super Bowl.

But, that was only one of many missed calls throughout that game. The Saints also received the ball first in overtime, meaning they had another chance to end the game without even letting the Rams offense touch the field. Despite the terrible no call, the Saints did not make the most of their opportunities throughout the game and should not simply blame their loss on the one play.

If you play sports, at some point in your career you have most likely had a terrible referee that made a call which you thought costed your team the game. It is quite annoying at first, but then slowly you begin to realize that there was plenty more that could have been done throughout the game to prevent the fate of the game falling into the referee’s hands.

Despite all the recent complaining from Saints fans and players, they had every opportunity to win the game, regardless of the call. For example, early in the game, the Saints had two great opportunities to score touchdowns, but had to settle for field goals instead. In the first drive, they drove the ball inside the Rams’ 20 yard line to start the game, but had to settle for three. In the second drive, they had an interception and started on the Rams’ 16 yard line, but again were held to three points. They eventually went up 13-0, but it easily could have been 21-0 if they had scored touchdowns.

Also, after scoring the field goal that followed the controversial no call, the Saints could have stopped the Rams right there and won the game. The Rams only had one timeout and 1:41 remaining at their own 25 yard line, but made enough plays to get in field goal range.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity the Saints had was in overtime. They won the coin toss and started on their own 26 yard line. If they scored a touchdown, the game would have been over before the Rams’ offense could touch the field. But, Brees was intercepted and the Rams shortly drove down the field and scored the game winning field goal.

Despite all of that, Saints fans are convinced that the only reason they lost was because of the no call. Everyone knows that referees are imperfect, but they are the perfect scapegoat in this and many other scenarios. Funny enough, there were calls made against the Rams that costed them significantly throughout the game.

Down 20-17, it was second and goal on the Saints five yard line when Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff scrambled down the sideline and was dragged by his facemask. What should have been a first and goal at the two yard line was actually a third and goal at the two. The chances for a lead changing touchdown significantly decreased because of that no call. But, Saints fans will completely ignore that.

All in all, the no call was terrible and inexcusable, but cannot be seen as sole reason for the Saints losing the NFC Championship game. New Orleans had plenty of other opportunities to win the game regardless of the call and the referees made terrible calls against Los Angeles as well.

As angry Saints watch the Super Bowl wondering what could have been, they should begin to understand that sports are imperfect and that you have to be ready for the worst when it comes to referees.