Joseph A. Griswold –Assistant Sports Editor
It was the non-call heard round the world. With under two minutes left to play in a 20-20 tie game in the NFL’s NFC Championship game between the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams, referees missed a blatant pass-interference call that would have virtually guaranteed a win for the Saints and sent them to Super Bowl LIII.
On third-and-10 from the Rams 13, Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees dropped back and tossed a pass towards receiver Tommylee Lewis. Before the ball arrived, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman dropped his head leveling Lewis in what the world saw as a clear and obvious pass interference.
However, no flags fell and the pass was called incomplete to the amazement of the 73,000 fans in attendance and the millions watching from home. Rather than a game-clinching score as time expired, the Saints were forced to settle for a field goal, which allowed the Rams to manufacture a game-tying drive and then ultimately capture the victory in overtime.
It was not simply the call that left fans and players outraged, as many have become accustomed to missed calls as part of the game, but the egregious nature of the non-call. “They blew the call,” Head coach Sean Payton stated, standing stunned and disgusted as he attempted to digest the non-call after the game. Payton was not the only outraged person as players and fans alike took to social media to discuss the missed call. Billboards plastered the city citing, “We were robbed,” and “NFL bleaux it.” The fanbase even went as far as filing a lawsuit on behalf of the season-ticket-holders for the missed call.
Despite the billboards and the lawsuit, the outcome of the game cannot be changed even though the NFL has come forward and admitted fault on the call. What can change, however, is how the NFL handles future clear and obvious missed calls, especially those that can have game-altering ramifications.
The non-call reignited the argument for the expansion of instant replay use and the use of more advanced technology in order to most accurately and efficiently officiate a game. Previous talks of more technological advancement and expansion of replay have stalled, but this error seems to be enough to force the NFL’s hand. In a sport that still relies so much on judgment calls made by old men from 20 yards away, it is clear the NFL needs adjusting.
Other major sports have shown the benefits of technology such as the use of it in tennis to determine if a ball is in or out of bounds.
In a corporation as large as the NFL, where money is no expense, the integrity of the game must be protected through the expansion of replay and the introduction of technology that allow for more accurate and efficient officiating.