Saints fans, and anyone who bet on them, have every right to be pissy the day after one of the worst blown calls in NFL history.
By now, we’ve all seen the play a million times over, so spare me the chore of setting it up again. More importantly, you should know that the analytics nerds out there calculated that if a flag had been thrown on the obvious pass interference by Rams corner Nickell Robey-Coleman on the Saints wide out Tommylee Lewis, New Orleans would have had a roughly 98 percent chance of winning the NFC championship game.
Of course, no flag was thrown. No first down was awarded to the Saints. No bleeding out the clock. No chip shot field goal attempt as time expired. No trip to the Super Bowl for the Saints.
Guess what: That’s sports. And just because the refs missed a big one doesn’t mean the game was ruined and stained for all eternity, and it certainly doesn’t mean the NFL has a credibility issue that must be addressed now. The blown call was egregious. It’s going to bother Saints fans (and backers) as long as they live.
But for a league that has a million public relations problems and a million issues with how the game is officiated, why get so worked up over one more missed call?
For all those making bold proclamations that the game was destroyed and forever tainted by the “worst blown call,” that’s nonsense. What about Patriots-Chiefs and that egregious roughing the passer penalty? In a perfect world, the calls would always be right, the breaks would always be fair, and the playing field would always be level. But sports, and real life, ain’t like that. And sometimes luck makes the difference. Just because the refs, who miss a TON of calls every week in the NFL, screwed up this one doesn’t mean we have to start going apeshit questioning how the league can rebound and ensure fans that the integrity of the game hasn't been compromised two weeks ahead of Super Bowl LIII.
Christ, the Patriots (allegedly) spied their way to a Super Bowl title and (allegedly) deflated footballs to earn another. Yesterday’s blown call came against the team penalized for Bountygate, aka the paying of players to hurt the opposition. The NFL continues to screw up issues of player safety and the long-term care of its former employees. Commissioner Roger Goodell is perennially ridiculed over his handling of player punishment and constantly questioned over the league’s direction. The NFL’s credibility is never not called into the question on the field and off it.
So, please, let’s cool it with the hyperbole over Sunday’s blown call. The new catch rule is a vast improvement over what it used to be, but for how many years did we deal with the bullshit of what constituted a catch, and how many times was it the factor in a game? How many weeks do we watch phantom roughing the passer penalties drastically change games? Holding calls alter the complexion all the time, and how many aren’t called? BLOWN CALLS ARE AS BIG A PART OF FOOTBALL AS FIRST DOWNS AND PLAY-ACTION PASSES.
Maybe the legacy of Sunday’s blown call is we get a new rule change in the off-season that allows coaches to challenge calls under certain circumstances, as some have speculated. I’m sure every NFL fan would be fine with that. The NFL basically admitted the refs blew it to Saints coach Sean Payton after the game. That sucks to hear. But we can also point out plenty of reasons why the Saints didn’t have to rely on a PI call down the stretch to win it at home. I’m sure you watched enough First Take and Undisputed to know what I’m talking about.
But we'll quickly highlight the reasons, regardless. How about New Orleans having a 13-0 lead, at home, in the Superdome, and not being able to hang on? Real talk, future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, who threw an interception in overtime, got outplayed by 24-year-old Jared Goff. Payton’s play calling was highly questionable down the stretch. And while the Saints would’ve had a 98 percent chance of closing out the game had a flag been flown, you never know what might’ve happened.
There are so many other things to question and dissect and analyze besides the blown call that focusing on it feels elementary. Yeah, I get that it’s going to dominate conversation for 24 hours, and it probably should, since everyone in sports media has all the camera angles and sound bites to ignite their hot takes. Just don’t tell me that the blown call ruined a really entertaining and incredibly dramatic championship game because then I’m going to question your credibility.