NFL Under Fire after Missed Call


Martin Gomez, Staff Writer

As the score of the match changes for one last time, the public outrage in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome begins. It’s hard to get a ton of people to agree on one single thing, but on Jan. 20, that improbability was proven otherwise. With a score of 26-23, the Los Angeles Rams defeated the New Orleans Saints to move on to Super Bowl LIII, while the Saints were sent home, sparking a whole new discussion revolving around the NFL, once again in terms of officiating.

The call in question was a late play with the game on the line. Tied 20-20 with 1:49 left on the clock and the ball on LA 13, the Saints go with a shotgun pass. As the ball is snapped, Drew Brees, New Orleans’ quarterback, sees an open lane on the right side of the field and throws the ball toward wide receiver TommyLee Lewis. The play is brought to a halt as Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman shoves Lewis before the ball go to him. Nothing is called on the play, and the Saints had to be satisfied with a field goal. Los Angeles would go on to tie the game before the end of regulation and, after an interception by Brees, win it with a 48-yard field goal in overtime.

Right after the game, the public outcries on the mistake of the officials began pouring in, many saying they “rigged the game” and handed the loss to the Saints. This isn’t the first instance of calls, or lack there of, having affected the outcome of an elimination game. The most notable example came in the Divisional Round of the 2014-15 NFL Playoffs between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers. In the final five minutes of the game, a pass to Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant was overturned, as the possession of the ball was seemingly lost as Bryant falls. This would be go-ahead play would’ve given Dallas the lead and potentially allowed them to go farther in the playoffs. A few years after the incident, the NFL has confirmed that the pass was indeed complete, bringing up a question that’s been in people’s mind: if the NFL themselves agree they’ve made a mistake, is there a way to fix it?

The problem itself has escalated to the point of involving the law. Last week, two Saints season-ticket holders, Tommy Badeaux and Candis Lambert along with petitioners, decided to band together and sue the NFL for the PI call. Their attorney filed a civil lawsuit on their behalf. Many fans feel they were victimized by the missed call, calling for Commissioner Goodell to follow Rule 17, Section 2, Article 3 of the NFL Rulebook.

The rule states: “The Commissioner has the sole authority to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary and/or corrective measures if any club action, non-participant interference, or calamity occurs in an NFL game which the Commissioner deems so extraordinarily unfair or outside the accepted tactics encountered in professional football that such action has a major effect on the result of the game.” This means it’s under Goodell’s jurisdiction to decide whether the game should be replayed. There’s nothing in the rule itself saying he can, but there’s also nothing saying he can’t. It’s highly unlikely that he would ever decide to replay a game, as the NFL would not likely delay the Super Bowl, even if it’s by a week.

All in all, the call made on the field was the wrong one. There was clearly a pass interference, and the refs and players themselves see it. Although this may be true, I would agree with the NFL in not replaying the game even from the time the call was made. The Saints won the coin toss in overtime, and proceeded to give up the ball and lose the game shortly after. They had another chance at winning the game and couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity. Filing a lawsuit against the NFL, a multi-billion dollar business, wouldn’t do much to change the outcome of the Saints losing. As long as humans are involved, it’s inevitable that mistakes will be made, and as fans, we also have to be human and understand these issues will happen.