By Greg Price
As football fans prepare to watch the Super Bowl this weekend, with the New England Patriots set to do battle with the Los Angeles Rams, many a gridiron fan are still lamenting over the aftershocks of both teams respective conference championship games earlier this month.
Screams can still be heard loud and clear of the non-call for pass interference by Nickell Robey-Coleman of the Rams on New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis. Had the referee made the call, the Saints, clinging to a three-point lead, would have milked the clock in the dying minutes, deep in Rams territory and kicked a field goal, all but assuring the Saints an appearance in the Super Bowl. Instead, the Rams would end up tying the game to put it into overtime, where they would eventually win the game with a monstrous 57-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein to propel the Rams to Super Bowl 53.
There is no question, it was one of the biggest blown calls in sports history, as Robey-Coleman fully mugged his opponent before the pass from Drew Brees had even made its downward trajectory to its intended receiver. Robey-Coleman had even admitted it, saying he was beat and he wanted to break up the play and stop the touchdown.
The outcry has been so great among Saints fans, that radio talk show hosts are calling for investigations on the league commissioner, local bars in New Orleans are refusing to show the Super Bowl and as of Monday, there was still a longshot lawsuit by two season-ticket holders on the books, seeking a possible do-over of the NFC championship game.
If the lawsuit were somehow expected to be successful (it won’t be), then it is I who must decry, where was the justice for my Cowboys and Dez Bryant in the infamous ‘non-catch’ against the Green Bay Packers in a 2014 divisional playoff game? Or also in the Games of Your Favourite Team Being Screwed in the Playoffs Past, once again the Packers and my Cowboys hooked up for one of the best games in recent history in the 2017 playoffs.
There I was, thinking the Cowboys/Packers were going to be heading into overtime after Dallas rallied from an 18-point deficit, and only 44 seconds remained in the game. But once again, the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers weaved his magic, or so I thought, when he completed a 36-yard pass to Jared Cook on a 3rd-and-20 to set up the game-winning field goal. Ready to humbly accept my team’s loss (that’s a lie), a replay of the long completion showed a blatant hold by an offensive lineman on a Cowboys defender who was attempting to chase down Rodgers outside of the pocket on the long completion. The call would have negated the first down and any chance of the Packers winning the game in regulation.
My world’s smallest violin examples are simply bringing home the point that any fan of any franchise can likely bring up an incident where they got hit by a bad call by a referee. Sometimes you get the call and sometimes you don’t, and any string of calls previously could have altered the outcome of a game in an alternate reality.
And even with the Saints being robbed with the non-call, they were still very much in control of their own destiny by winning the coin flip in overtime, where a touchdown would have sealed the game. Drew Brees would end up throwing an interception that would set up the Rams’ game-winning field goal.
Speaking of coin tosses, the Patriots won theirs in their AFC championship game that went into overtime against the Kansas City Chiefs. Tom Brady would end up delivering the goods for a chance to win his sixth Super Bowl, as the Patriots scored a touchdown on the opening drive of overtime. Sophomore phenom Patrick Mahomes was not even able to get on the field in OT, creating further controversy at league offices over whether the format for overtime should be changed. Many fans feel it’s unfair a team get rewarded by simply winning the fate of a coin toss to get the ball first, with the other team unable to answer if the first possession results in a touchdown.
But the controversy didn’t just start there. There was a laughable roughing the passer call on ‘Bubble Wrap’ Brady well into the fourth quarter with the Kansas City Chiefs clinging to a 21-17 lead. Replays show Chris Jones bringing his arm down on Brady’s shoulder pad as he delivers the ball. The glancing blow that made no contact with the head, did not even knock him off stride as he stayed perfectly upright, yet the flag was thrown. The Chiefs had stopped the Patriots on third-and-long that play and would have got the ball back, likely trying to kill the clock and force the Patriots to use their time-outs in the fourth quarter, where a touchdown was needed to win. The Chiefs fans had their arms up in disbelief, especially since the Patriots’ Trey Flowers did the exact same thing to Mahomes halfway through the third quarter with no call.
But again, it illustrates the point that any number of aggressive calls, or non-calls by the refs earlier in the game could have made for a much different reality to the game in progress, where theoretically, the game wouldn’t have been that close in the closing minutes to force overtime. For instance, despite the earlier controversy, the Chiefs were up 28-24 with 1:01 left in the game. Brady sailed a 3rd-and-10 pass high to Rob Gronkowski that was eventually deflected to cornerback Charvarius Ward for the interception, in essence sealing the win for Kansas City. But, linebacker Dee Ford was lined up in the neutral zone before the play, negating the interception and giving the Patriots new life. There would have been no looking back on the roughing the passer play had Ford simply lined up one yard back.
This is all of course, little solace to the fanbase who ended up on the wrong side of a call in what they viewed as a critical juncture of the game. Sports are always evolving with how they are being policed with new rule changes.
But, fans are going to have accept being on the wrong side of that policing every once in awhile in the imperfection of human error. — unless you are a fan of the New England Patriots of course (tuck rule, etc)…they always seem to get the call. I hate those guys, and even though they beat my Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs, I’m going to be a Los Angeles Rams fan for one day on Super Bowl Sunday.
Please…someone…anyone….beat the New England Patriots.