Gerald Herbert/Associated Press
The NFL reportedly admitted to the New Orleans Saints that it “f–ked up the call” in the NFC Championship Game when Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman wasn’t called for pass interference and a helmet-to-helmet hit on Saints wideout Tommylee Lewis, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Schefter also reported that “there is some concern in league circles about the NFL’s judgment in allowing four game officials who live in Southern California to work the game.”
Per that report, the four officials from Southern California were the four “most responsible” for the now-infamous non-call. But the Saints and other officials reportedly “do not believe that these officials’ geographical ties influenced their non-call.”
Nonetheless, a perception exists behind closed doors that the optics of the situation, at the very least, aren’t great.
“The NFL put [itself] in a bad situation,” an officiating source told Schefter. “This is stuff that has to be taken care of prior to game. It’s just guys not thinking of what’s going on, nobody doing their checks and balances. The league is usually pretty much on top of it. This is one that slipped through the cracks.”
Another league source added, “I haven’t heard anybody say the game was fixed; I have heard people say the crew F’ed up. But the optic is bad. It’s a legit issue and they should have figured that out.”
Given the high-profile nature of the missed call—and how blatant the officiating gaffe was—it isn’t surprising the level of scrutiny surrounding the situation. Had the pass interference been called on the third-down attempt, the Saints would have had the opportunity to run down the clock and kick a potential game-winning field goal with no time remaining.
Instead, the Saints were forced to attempt a go-ahead field goal with 1:41 remaining, giving the Rams enough time to drive down the field and kick a game-tying field goal, forcing the game to overtime. From there, the Rams went on to win.
As Schefter noted, “In the opinion of many around the football world, this was the most high-profile blown call in NFL history.” Given that context, the call is justifiably being dissected from every possible angle.