How much more of the officials’ non-call in the NFC Championship game do we have to endure?
Alright, I totally agree that by failing to throw the flag on an obvious pass interference as well as a helmet-to-helmet personal foul on the Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman likely cost the Saints a golden chance to win the game in regulation and go on to the Super Bowl in Atlanta against the Patriots.
I say likely, because there is no such thing as a sure thing in sports, much less life.
Would the Saints have been able to connect on a chip-shot field goal giving the Rams virtually no time to come back, or even score a touchdown to put the game out of reach?
Was there any chance in the world something might have gone wrong, such as a bad snap, poor hold, or even a missed kick?
Yes, there was.
There are other aspects to any game that mitigate the fact that simply one play decides a game. That’s why head coaches take bad calls more in stride than fans, the media, and those who lost wagers. They are fully aware that there are situations earlier in the game that would have made the focus on one big play at the end, moot.
For instance, the Saints did squander a first quarter 13-0 lead at home. They also managed to run for a measly 48 yards. Basically, their offense bogged down. Unusual for Drew Brees and company.
I’m sure Sean Payton was replaying the entire game in his head, and on tape this past week, not merely the botched non-call.
Still, unless you’re in the Rams’ camp, the game, as thrilling as it was, left a bad taste.
But all we’ve heard since that contest has been played are the deafening roars of lawsuits, a plea to have everything reviewed, the call for professional officials, and all the drastic changes you can name, including replaying the entire game or the last two minutes.
Let’s jump from fantasy to reality.
Here’s the story in my view.
It is beyond comprehension how an official did not immediately signal that there was pass interference as well as a personal foul on the helmet-to-helmet contact, which was the number one new rule emphasized when the season got underway.
It was a larger-than-life error.
It is ridiculous to start reviewing EVERY play that could be considered in the outcome of a game. In the fashionable belief to “get it right,” where does it end?
How often should a game be stopped, so that the referee can walk over to a screen on the sidelines and put on earphones to talk to someone in New York to run a play forward and back numerous times to make a decision? A decision that, as of now, has to be obvious enough to overturn the original ruling on the field.
In the NFC title game, it was a matter of pass interference.
The next time, it could be a call for holding, or roughing the passer, or intentional grounding, or roughing the kicker, or ANYTHING.
You get the idea.
That’s where the purpose of the NFL, or, for that matter, all sports are ground to a halt.
It’s called entertainment.
I believe it’s no longer entertaining to see sports events drag on and on for any reason. Replays in baseball have taken away the flow of that sport. Who can suffer through three-and-a-half or four hour games?
How about basketball. where officials gather at the scoring table to view replays, extending the last two-minutes of a game to more than 10 minutes.
I have long felt that once officials’ calls in the NFL started to be scrutinized, the striped-shirts lost a good deal of their confidence to officiate, in fear of being wrong, second-guessed, or fired.
Believe it or not, limited instant replay began in 1986. I remember thinking that the officials, in trying to make correct calls, slowly, but surely tried not to get it wrong. Often, they were getting it wrong, making calls that should’ve not been made, and not making rulings that begged for a flag.
When observers talk about a game being poorly officiated, I don’t think of incompetence, I think of fear.
On the subject of professional officials: Officials are all professional, or should be when they’re working games.
What could they possibly accomplish during the week, as professionals, that would help them when the time came to make a live, immediate judgment during a game?
I happen to think we see less of these controversies in the college game. In college football, I feel officials call them as they see them, with further review from upstairs fixing mistakes. College football officials don’t seem to live in “fear”.
I realize today’s football is played at a much faster pace than it used to be. Perhaps another set of eyes, even two sets of eyes, would help.
Players make mistakes, coaches make mistakes, officials make mistakes.
You and I make mistakes. It’s life.
So my feeling is, let’s not extend the panorama of replays and the meticulous dissection of the game. If anything, let’s make it less. Let’s tell the officials working games to call them as they see them, do their best to get it right. Add more striped shirts for specific purposes if need be. Use the college football method of further review. Let’s make the entertaining game of pro football, even more entertaining.
As for lawsuits, how much fun would it be, if sometime next August, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the Saints beating the Rams in last year’s NFC Championship game?
Not much fun.
There’s no way I’m ending this without a word about the Super Bowl.
Anyone can be right, anyone can be wrong in predicting the outcome. Who has any idea how a game will go? When and where the turnovers will occur. What crazy play will pop up.
The last two Super Bowls are graphic examples. First, with the Patriots rallying from 25-points down to beat the Falcons in overtime two years ago, and then last season’s wild Eagles triumph over the Pats.
So here is New England back under the Big Top. This time, they have been underdogs to get here. But they are no longer the non-favorites.
Head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady seek their sixth Lombardi Trophy.
Bill Belichick and Sean McVay
They are facing a Los Angeles Rams team that many are claiming their mere appearance in Atlanta is tainted because of the infamous non-call in New Orleans.
In the big picture, this Super Bowl is about experience vs. inexperience.
Belichick is 66, the Rams’ Sean McVay turned 33 last week.
Tom Brady is 41, Rams QB Jared Goff is 24.
Tom Brady and Jared Goff
The last time the Rams played in a Super Bowl was February 3, 2002. They were the St.Louis Rams at the time, and they were heavily favored over the Patriots and their second-year quarterback Tom Brady. But New England captured their very first championship, 20-17, on a field goal by Adam Vinatieri as time expired. Vinatieri, by the way, is still kicking.
The ageless one will be back next season for the Colts. The 46-year old will be playing in his 24th year.
The real difference for the Patriots back then, was their ability to hold Kurt Warner, and the highly-prolific Greatest Show on Turf to only 17 points.
This Sunday, February 3, 2019, the Rams come in with an unpredictable, exciting, and effective attack.
Their chances may hinge on their defensive performance, engineered by their coordinator, Wade Phillips. Phillips is one of the few Rams with considerable experience. He’s 71 years old and has seen everything in his brilliant career.
In 2016, the Patriots were beaten by the Broncos in the AFC title game. Brady was beaten up by the Denver defense. He was knocked down 20 times, and had the bruises, cuts and scrapes to show for it.
The man who called the defensive plays for the Broncos was Wade Phillips.
For the Rams to win, Phillips will have to do more of the same against Brady on Sunday. And the Rams have the players to do it. Up front, Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, and Michael Brockers are a formidable trio. Donald is the best defensive player in the league. They can’t let Brady have carte blanche in being comfortable enough to find his receivers.
That’s where the Chiefs failed in their playoff bid in the AFC championship.
Of course, there will be something unusual and unexpected.
There always is.
Just pray it isn’t about the officials.