The way the NFC Championship Game played out was a nightmare from the NFL from an officiating standpoint, and apparently the issues surrounding the controversial no-call run deeper than initially believed.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Sunday that people in NFL circles have expressed concern about the NFL’s judgment after the league allowed four officials who reside in Southern California to work a game that featured the Los Angeles Rams. The four officials, all of whom have lived in the LA area for a significant period of time, were the ones “most responsible” for letting Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman’s blatant pass interference penalty slide, according to Schefter.
The Saints and the other officials who were working the game do not believe where the four officials reside had anything to do with their mistakes or the outcome of the game. Both teams were aware of the official assignments in advance of the matchup, and neither side expressed concern.
But as one source told Schefter, the topic has become enough of an issue that the NFL will likely try to avoid a similar situation going forward.
“The NFL put [itself] in a bad situation,” the source said. “This is stuff that has to be taken care of prior to game. It’s just guys not thinking of what’s going on, nobody doing their checks and balances. The league is usually pretty much on top of it. This is one that slipped through the cracks.”
Bill Vinovich, the lead official from the NFC Championship Game, lives in Newport Beach, Calif. Interestingly enough, the Rams had gone 0-8 in games he had officiated since 2012 prior to last Sunday’s. That inspired LA fans to start a petition asking that he be removed from the crew.
An NFL spokesperson said Sunday that “officiating assignments are based on performance and not geographic location.” While the blown pass interference call was one of the most egregious no-calls in NFL history, it should also be noted that the crew missed multiple calls that hurt the Saints and helped the Rams.
Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman won’t be appealing the fine he received for the helmet-to-helmet hit that he somehow got away with late in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship.
Robey-Coleman was hit with a significant fine for his hit on New Orleans Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis, and he admitted that he has no plans to fight that decision.
It’s probably not a surprise considering Robey-Coleman has openly admitted that he committed a foul on the play and got away with it. Everybody knows it now. It’s just that a fine is going to do nothing to placate the angry Saints and their fans.
Just as coaching staffs have been analyzing their Super Bowl opponents and formulating gameplans, fans and pundits are looking at matchups and potential talking points for the big game. There’s a lot to digest in a matchup of Bill Belichick and Sean McVay, along with the numerous weapons both coaches have at their disposal.
Which players will matter most, though? There are several names who could flip the game if they play at their best. Here are ten key players to look out for once Super Bowl LIII kicks off.
10) C.J. Anderson, RB, Rams
It’s become abundantly clear over the course of the playoffs that Anderson has a big role in the Los Angeles offense, particularly as a vertical runner. He outran Todd Gurley against the Cowboys and got significantly more carries against the Saints. How they’ll choose to deploy him against the Patriots remains to be seen, but there’s little doubt that Anderson is in line for a major role as they try to keep the New England defense and scheme on its toes.
Los Angeles Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein was one of the heroes of Sunday’s NFC Championship win over the New Orleans Saints, and he apparently did it with a rather unique injury.
According to Rams special teams coordinator John Fassel, Zuerlein strained his left foot when he inadvertently stepped on a metal plate beneath the Superdome turf during the game. The injury was insignificant enough that Fassel didn’t even find out about it until after the game.
Zuerlein was obviously not severely impacted considering he hit two field goals with a high degree of difficulty that ultimately carried the Rams to the Super Bowl. It sounds like there are no concerns about him against the New England Patriots.
The NFL has yet to publicly acknowledge that its officials may have cost the New Orleans Saints a trip to the Super Bowl last weekend, but Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman has been made well aware of how the league felt about one of the most controversial plays in the sport’s history.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Robey-Coleman has been fined more than $25,000 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis.
In addition to basically taking Lewis out of the play before the ball got there, Robey-Coleman initiated helmet-to-helmet contact. While it was the pass interference non-call that got most of the attention, the officials actually could have called both that and a personal foul on Robey-Coleman.
As you know, either call would have set the Saints up with 1st-and-goal and a chance to bleed the clock out before attempting a game-winning chip shot. New Orleans head coach Sean Payton said after the NFC Championship Game loss that the NFL acknowledged the call was blown, but commissioner Roger Goodell and other league executives have remained silent. One Saints player ripped Goodell on Thursday and urged him to make a statement about the mistake.
Many players through the years have tried to describe the experience of playing in the Super Bowl, but few have done it quite as eloquently as New England Patriots center David Andrews.
Andrews, who is set to play in his third Super Bowl with the Patriots in only four NFL seasons, told reporters on Wednesday that anything aside from winning feels meaningless. He compared it to a couple’s wedding day because “everyone freaks out about all these little details,” but the only thing you remember is “the results of the wedding.”
That’s one way of viewing it.
The two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl can feel like an eternity, and no team in the NFL understands that more than the Patriots. While everything else seems meaningless once the ball is kicked off, arranging for tickets for friends and family and dealing with the media can be a lot for players to handle. In that sense, Mike Leach would probably completely agree with Andrews that it is kind of like your wedding day.
The NFL is facing tremendous pressure to make pass interference calls reviewable after the way the New Orleans Saints were cheated out of a trip to the Super Bowl on Sunday, but the notion that such a change would have saved Sean Payton’s team from bad officiating is off-base.
While the NFL is reportedly exploring the possibility of making pass interference calls reviewable, many people do not realize that the new policy would not apply to non-calls. Judy Battista of NFL Network confirmed with a member of the NFL Competition Committee that there would not be much support for reviewing potential pass interference, holding or illegal contact penalties where no flag was thrown.
In other words, a bad pass interference call could be changed upon review, but teams could not ask officials to review a play that they believe should have resulted in a flag. That was the case when the officiating crew in the NFC Championship Game missed a blatant penalty that would have likely given the Saints the win.
However, it should be noted that the ability to review pass interference calls might influence whether or not an official throws a flag. Now that all turnovers are subject to review, we have seen officials hesitate more to blow the whistle or rule a possible fumble an incomplete pass, and part of the reason for that is that they know they have a chance to get the call right with review. If pass interference was reviewable, perhaps officials would be more likely to throw the flag — especially in such a crucial situation in a big game.
You can understand why the NFL would not want to give coaches the ability to review non-calls. Think of a player like Rob Gronkowski, who is held on almost every play. Do we really want to give Bill Belichick and other coaches an opportunity to throw the challenge flag any time they believe a player was held or interfered with? That doesn’t sound like an enjoyable way to watch a game.
No matter how angry the Saints’ owners are and how hard they rip the NFL for what happened, reviewing non-calls on judgment plays seems like a slippery slope the league does not want to venture down.
Tom Brady had to contend with a hostile crowd at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday night as he helped the New England Patriots clinch yet another AFC title, and it appears at least one fan may have brought more than just noise.
William Joy of KMBC in Missouri shared some clips on Monday that were taken by the network’s photographer during New England’s overtime win over the Kansas City Chiefs, and they appeared to show a green laser being pointed in Brady’s face. The most obvious time was right after the call on Julian Edelman’s muffed punt was overturned.
Joy noted that the green light was seen at least one other time on a Brady pass to Chris Hogan, which was initially ruled a completion but also overturned upon review.
There was no mention of the laser pointer after the game, so it’s possible Brady didn’t even notice it. We saw something similar happen during an NFL game in Mexico two years ago, and the quarterback who was targeted said it impacted his performance.
The NFL and the Chiefs will likely investigate the incident to see if they can determine who was responsible.
The New Orleans Saints clearly won’t be taking Sunday’s NFC Championship loss lying down.
Saints owner Gayle Benson released a statement Monday saying the team was “unfairly deprived” of the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl by an uncalled pass interference penalty late in regulation of the team’s 26-23 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
“No team should ever be denied the opportunity to reach the title game (or simply win a game) based on the actions, or inactions, of those charged with creating a fair and equitable playing field,” Benson said in the statement. “As is clear to all who watched the game, it is undeniable that our team and fans were unfairly deprived of that opportunity yesterday.
“I have been in touch with the NFL regarding yesterday’s events and will aggressively pursue changes in NFL policies to ensure no team and fan base is ever put in a similar position again. It is a disservice to our coaches, players, employees and, most importantly, the fans who make our game possible. The NFL must always commit to providing the most basic of expectations- fairness and integrity.”
Some members of the Saints have gone as far as to suggest that commissioner Roger Goodell should intervene and overturn the result. Benson doesn’t go that far. It’s hard to say what could be done differently, though — even if you make penalties challengable, it’s still a situation where no flag was thrown.
Iconic New York sports radio personality Mike Francesa went viral again on Monday for all the wrong reasons.
As one might imagine, the WFAN host had a lot of thoughts on Sunday’s conference championships, including the performance of the referees in the NFC title game. He was particularly appalled that one referee swapped jerseys with Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley, whose team benefited from an awful non-call late in regulation.
There’s just one problem. That image did make the rounds on social media, including Gurley’s Instagram, but it was pretty obviously fake. Gurley was just embracing the joke and the fact that his team got a bit lucky.
Fear not, though, as Francesa quickly corrected the record after a commercial break.
Poor Mike. This isn’t the first time he’s embarrassed himself on the air, but this was a pretty rough one.