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Becker: Missed pass interference call overshadows both conference championships

| Monday, January 21, 2019

Even after two thrilling NFL conference championship games that both went to overtime and eliminated two No. 1 seeds, there’s one thing that stands out most from Sunday’s matchups: the blown defensive pass interference call in the final minutes of the Saints-Rams game.

For those who somehow haven’t heard about it yet, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman ran into Saints cornerback Tommylee Lewis — with helmet-to-helmet contact — well before quarterback Drew Brees’ pass arrived with 1:45 left in the NFC Championship game and the score knotted at 20. It was third and 10 for the Saints on the Rams 13-yard line at the time, forcing a field goal attempt with enough time for the Rams to drive downfield and kick one of their own. Los Angeles won the game with a field goal in overtime.

One call is never solely responsible for the outcome of any sports game. The Saints certainly had other opportunities to beat the Rams, especially with possession first in overtime.

But wow, this one stings.

Following the game, New Orleans head coach Sean Payton said he and the Saints will “probably never get over it,” especially after NFL head of officials Alberto Riveron called Payton to tell him the officiating crew missed the call.

Players, analysts and fans from around the country are expressing sympathy for New Orleans and frustration over the no-call. Safeguards against future potential controversies like this one are already being suggested, including expanding NFL replay rules to cover questions of pass interference. Even Robey-Coleman himself said the play should’ve been pass interference after the game.

Whatever the solution is, though, it doesn’t change the fact that Drew Brees, now 40 years old, missed out on what might be his best chance to cement his status as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time by winning a second Super Bowl. Brees said he will be back next season, but who knows how many more chances he has left to win another ring?

Brees’ name will always be up there during a conversation about the best NFL quarterbacks — after all, he holds just about every record for completions and completion percentages — but his lack of hardware compared to quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and even Ben Roethlisberger will hurt his case. And that’s unfortunate, because with a head coach like Bill Belichick, Brees would probably be the undisputed GOAT of the NFL instead of Brady (just look at the Patriots managing to go 11-5 in 2008 with Matt Cassel at quarterback).

When a game comes down to the wire, one play can seem like it completely alters the outcome of a game. During the final minute of the AFC Championship game Sunday, Dee Ford lined up offsides and negated a Chiefs interception that would’ve pretty much sealed the win for Kansas City.

Of course, just like in the NFC Championship game, that one mistake wasn’t responsible for the outcome of the game. The Chiefs could have gotten the job done if they’d made just one or two more key stops or clicked on just a couple more plays on offense. But that neutral zone infraction will most likely haunt Ford for a long time.

It’s even worse when officiating is responsible for that one play.

This happens almost every week of every season, but between the Saints being knocked off as a top-seeded team, the call coming within the two-minute warning and this being the tail end of Drew Brees’ incredible career, that missed pass interference call is going to be talked about well beyond the Super Bowl two weeks from now.

As Riveron told Payton, the NFL knows this one went wrong. It remains to be seen if anything will actually come of it. But it’s a shame a guy like Brees, along with the rest of the Saints and their New Orleans fan base, had to pay the price.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Courtney Becker

Courtney is a senior from New York City majoring in film, television and theater with a minor in journalism, who recently wrapped up her year as Editor-in-Chief. She is a former resident of Pasquerilla West Hall and a die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

Contact Courtney