The conference finals left us with a Super Bowl of the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams. Yes, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are headed to their ninth Super Bowl together, to face off against young upstarts Jared Goff and Sean McVay. There will be plenty of time to talk of the matchup and I will do so next week in these pages.
But, like the rest of the nation, I will talk about an obvious game-deciding blown call, and what the NFL might do to address what has become an officiating crisis.
Stories on Monday morning after the games should have centered around the brilliance of Brady and Belichick and how Rams coach Sean McVay has taken a franchise that had missed the postseason 12 consecutive times to the Super Bowl in just his second year.
Instead, about 99% of NFL stories centered around referees, missed calls, and an unfair overtime system. To sum it up, last year it was the kneeling crisis. This year, it is the officiating crisis. Let me start with the blown call in the NFC Championship Game. What happened with the missed call is as bad as it gets. Though the Saints had chances to overcome the gaffe, a terrible officiating failure cost New Orleans a trip to the Super Bowl.
There is no denying it. There was 1:48 showing when Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw the ball down the right sideline to Tommylee Lewis, who looked back for it, only to take a vicious head shot from Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. The impact between the two occurred well before Brees’ pass arrived on the scene. You could almost hear Saints’ fans cheering and Rams’ fans groaning. The penalty was that obvious. But, wait, no flag. No pass interference, no helmet to helmet. If the officials call it, the Saints have first-and-goal at the 5 with 1:45 left. From there, the Rams would have been forced to burn their final timeout, and the Saints could have bled the clock dry and kicked a field goal to win the game with no time left. Instead, they kicked the field goal with 1:41 remaining, leaving plenty of time for the Rams to tie the game, which they did. Overtime prevailed. New Orleans won the coin toss, got the ball, threw an interception, and Los Angeles kicked a game-winning field goal a few minutes later. The Rams advanced to the Super Bowl and the Saints went home to an angry fan base.
Sports talk shows this week have been demanding changes regarding video replay being extended to pass interference calls. Personally, I am not for this on all close calls but would not mind each head coach getting one challenge per game on pass interference calls. Another topic Monday morning was the fact that the Kansas City Chiefs did not get a chance to possess the ball in overtime against New England. The Pats won the coin toss and proceeded to embark on a 75-yard touchdown drive to win the game. Under current rules, the team that gets the ball to start overtime wins the game sudden death style if it scores a touchdown. If New England kicks a field goal or punts the ball away, the Chiefs would have gotten a chance to score to tie or win the game.
What has many angered is that Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes never got the chance Brady got, that is to drive his team down for a touchdown of their own. I have mixed thoughts on this one. All the Chiefs had to do was to stop New England. Just like the Rams did to New Orleans just a few hours earlier. All they needed to do was to make one play, especially on third down. Brady converted three third down and ten plays. How about creating a pass rush? I do not think Brady was touched during the 13-play, 75 yard Super Bowl advancing drive.
Yet, I would have loved to see Mahomes and Kansas City attempt to match Brady and the Pats. I would not mind seeing the NFL adopt the college rule and give each team possessions until the tie is broken. The one change I would make is to give the offense the ball at its own 25 yard line. Make them go 75 yards for a touchdown.
Photo: Saints’ Head Coach Sean Payton reacts last Sunday