NEW ORLEANS, LA (KCTV) -- Sunday marked the end of what was arguably the most exciting weekend of conference championship football ever seen in the NFL. Two overtime games between top seeds, both excruciatingly close, both headlined with a questionable no-call by league officials.
None more egregious than a pass interference penalty that was let go in the final minutes of regulation during the NFC Championship Game.
New Orleans and Los Angeles were tied at 20 with 1:48 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Saints with possession on the Rams 13-yard line. Drew Brees dropped back on third down, looking for receiver Tommylee Lewis as he sprinted up the right sideline.
Then this happened:
No penalty was called on the play.
If you’re confused or even angry after watching that play, you’re not alone. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome erupted, as did social media. Everyone wanting an explanation for the no-call on Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman.
Now, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has the option to retroactively overturn that ruling, and if he wants, send the Saints to the Super Bowl. If he cites the rule, he can either issue a statement apologizing for the mistake and reverse the outcome of the game or force both teams to replay it.
His ability to do so comes from NFL Rule 17, Section 2, Article 1, which was first noted by Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. The rule reads as follows:
"The Commissioner has the sole authority to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary and/or corrective measures if any club action, non-participant interference, or calamity occurs in an NFL game which the Commissioner deems so extraordinarily unfair or outside the accepted tactics encountered in professional football that such action has a major effect on the result of the game."
But to describe the no-call as “extraordinarily unfair” would be a stretch, if not altogether wrong.
Even after Will Lutz made a 31-yard field goal to send the Saints up by three, the New Orleans defense still had an opportunity to stop the Rams from scoring. It didn’t.
However, it could be argued that the Saints would win the game if the play was called correctly. A pass interference call would have put the ball on the Rams 6-yard line and a new set of downs would’ve been awarded. From there, the Saints would run the clock down, use one of their timeouts to stop the clock near zero and have Lutz knock down a 21-yard chip shot to win the game.
This could prompt the other option, which is the NFL admitting its own officiating crew had enough of a “major effect” on the outcome that it throws out the call to reverse the game.
But nothing is more improbable than the league eating crow on its decisions and, ultimately, hurting profits.
The NFL is an organization that has mastered sweeping PR blemishes under the rug. This blemish will not be an exception, as the league promises nothing more than to “fix this” moving forward, ignoring the millions of dollars in camera equipment and staff that could’ve fixed it on the spot.
Should there be repercussions for a call of this caliber being missed on one of the biggest stages in the game? Yes. But life is unfair, especially within the realm of sports.
That fact will do little to calm the anger of Saints fans, who have rented two billboards in downtown Atlanta reading “NFL BLEAUX IT” and “SAINTS GOT ROBBED.” The fan base has also recorded over 425,000 signatures on a Change.org petition to enact Rule 17 and replay the game.
The chances of Rule 17 coming into play now or ever are near none. However if Sunday’s example doesn’t prompt it, it’s very likely that nothing ever will.