For most football fans, Sunday’s NFC Championship Game will go down as one of the greatest of all time — a tilt between two powerhouse offenses that ended in a 26-23 overtime victory for the Los Angeles Rams.
But not for Saints fans.
Their team’s quarterback, Drew Brees, threw an interception in OT, paving the way for Los Angeles kicker Greg Zuerlein to make a 57-yard field goal to win the game.
But in reality, the Saints lost the game earlier — at the end of the fourth quarter by virtue of a horrible non-call. L.A. cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman plowed shoulder first into Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis like a battering ram at the five-yard line with 1:49 left in a blatant pass interference.
Well, blatant to everyone else but the officiating crew apparently — a fact that the NFL admitted to the Saints shortly after the game ended.
“This would have been an egregious missed call at any point, in any game. That it came with less than two minutes left in the NFC conference championship, when a first down would have effectively ended the game and sent New Orleans to the Super Bowl, is incomprehensible,” writes Sports Illustrated‘s Ben Baskin. “It feels so unlikely, so impossible, that the players in the room don’t seem to even know how to react.”
The play turned the game: If the penalty had been called, the Saints would have been able to kneel three times to run out the clock and kick the game-winning field goal.