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Sports Authority

Brizzolara: Stop blaming the referees

| Friday, January 25, 2019

This week, New Orleans Saints players and fans have represented a pervasive problem in sports: Blame the refs. After blowing a 13-point lead in the NFC Championship game this past Sunday, the Saints lost in overtime to the Rams, but Sean Payton and the rest of the Saints community have placed blame for the loss almost exclusively on one missed pass-interference call in the fourth quarter.

Granted, the missed call came at a costly time and was easily verified as the wrong call (or lack thereof) by watching a replay. Furthermore, there would be no bigger supporter of allowing penalties to be reviewed and overturned by replay than me.

However, by refusing to relent in their constant blame of the referees, Saints coaches, players and fans have perfectly represented the entitled attitude that is proliferating in sports and hurting the game. The call was bad, but throughout the game the Saints blew numerous opportunities and by refusing to address their own failures, they are pretending to be the victims of the refs when they are simply victims of their own persistent poor play.

First things first, there is no guarantee that the pass would have been complete, and even if it had been, the Saints had already been held to two red-zone field goals earlier in the first half. Speaking of which, the Saints had two early red-zone trips before the Rams even had a first down, and they settled for field goals on both of them.

The Saints offense throughout the game was struggling, including less than 50 total yards of rushing from Alvin Kamara and Ingram combined. The Saints’ defense was equally deficient, as they let a Todd Gurley-less Rams offense kill them with play action and allowed Los Angeles to score field goals on their last four drives of the game.

Sean Payton got in on the mediocrity as well, as he decided to throw the ball in the red zone on first down inside the two-minute warning while the Rams had only two timeouts. Not only was it a questionable play call, but Drew Brees decided to throw it into the dirt and miss a relatively open Michael Thomas. Not only did the refs and Rams beat the Saints, but so did Sean Payton, Drew Brees and the clock.

After the missed pass-interference call, the Saints defense still let the Rams drive 46 yards in under a minute-and-a-half to tie the game and send it into overtime. But hey, it was the refs. Was it the refs who got the ball first in overtime, threw an interception and then let the Rams drive down the field to hit a game-winning field goal? These refs need a raise.

Yet, with all the drama on the missed call, we are still overlooking the fact that with more training and better access to replay, sports games today are officiated much better than they ever had before, across all major sports leagues. Should the NFL and other leagues discuss the ability to review penalties on replay? Sure. But players, coaches and fans throughout sports need to stop constantly berating referees and start taking personal responsibility for their play.

Every 5-year-old in daycare knows that life isn’t fair and you should only focus on your actions. It’s what leaders do, and it’s time athletes, coaches and fans did the same.

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

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