Dugout Chatter: It should have been the Saints

In a perfect world, New Orleans is a city of champions again

<p>Los Angeles Rams receiver Brandin Cooks makes a catch against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC championship game Jan. 20, 2019, at the Superdome in New Orleans. A controversial no-call late in the game could have costed the Saints a spot in the Super Bowl. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS)</p>

Los Angeles Rams receiver Brandin Cooks makes a catch against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC championship game Jan. 20, 2019, at the Superdome in New Orleans. A controversial no-call late in the game could have costed the Saints a spot in the Super Bowl. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Zach Piatt is a sophomore journalism major and writes “Dugout Chatter" for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Zach at zapiatt@bsu.edu. 

I watched this year’s Super Bowl. I saw New England’s defense dominate the entirety of the game. I saw Julian Edelman become the only bright spot in either offense. I saw the horrible halftime show. I saw Los Angeles punt on nine of its 12 possessions. I saw Bill Belichick and Tom Brady win their sixth ring together.

What I didn’t see was the team that most deserved to be playing on the NFL’s biggest stage: the New Orleans Saints.

The Rams were lucky to be playing this Super Bowl Sunday. The NFC championship had one play late in the fourth quarter that essentially changed the outcome of the game. I have no doubt in my mind that New Orleans should have been playing for the Lombardi Trophy instead of watching from home.

Without further ado, here’s my spiel.

With 1:49 left and the score tied at 20, the Saints found themselves with a third-and-10 on Los Angeles’ 13-yard line. Drew Brees lofted a pass down the right sideline to Tommylee Lewis. The ball landed untouched at the 4-yard line, and Lewis lay face down a few feet away. The pass was perfect, and Lewis probably would have scored a touchdown if he caught it, but Nickell Robey-Coleman put him on the ground before the ball could even get there. 

No big deal, right? The referee will throw a flag for pass interference … right

The flag never came, and just listening to the boos from New Orleans fans in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on TV was deafening. The announcers, as well as I, immediately started questioning the no-call.

It was obviously pass interference. The defender made contact with the receiver well before the ball arrived. Penalty.

What I quickly realized after seeing the replay was that the referees missed more than just a pass-interference call. 

Robey-Coleman never looked back for the ball and nailed Lewis right in the head. It should have also been called unnecessary roughness for a helmet-to-helmet collision with the possibility of a targeting call and ejection from the game. 

Robey-Coleman knew he got away with it too. After the play ended, he looked around as if he expected to see a flag. He waited about five seconds before he started celebrating with his teammates. Normally, and especially in the playoffs, players don’t hesitate to get excited after making a big play. Robey-Coleman hesitated because he knew he messed up. Apparently, the men in stripes didn’t see it.

The Saints were forced to settle for a field goal, leaving the Rams with 1:41 to try to tie or take the lead. This is where things get dicey. If a penalty is called on that play, New Orleans gets a first down, runs out the clock and kicks a last-second field goal to win the game.

Of course, the Rams respond with a field goal of their own, and the game heads to overtime. Long story short — the Saints get the ball, Brees throws an interception on a tipped pass and Greg Zuerlein hits a 57-yard field goal to send the Rams to the Super Bowl.

Saints receiver Michael Thomas did some research not long after the conclusion of the game, and it was clear he wanted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to take action. 

The following morning, just minutes past midnight, Thomas tweeted, “Rule 17 Section 2 Article 3” and tagged the NFL’s account. Naturally, I, along with everyone else who saw the tweet I’m sure, looked up what Rule 17 Section 2 Article 3 entailed.

According to the NFL rulebook, “The Commissioner’s powers under this Section 2 include … if appropriate, the reversal of a game’s result or the rescheduling of a game, either from the beginning or from the point at which the extraordinary act occurred.”

So, if Goodell deemed this blown call appropriate, the Saints would get a chance to make things right. Needless to say, now that the Rams already lost the Super Bowl in one of the worst offensive performances I’ve ever seen, Goodell let it go.

To make the league look even worse, an NFL report was published a week after the NFC championship stating that four officials in that game have ties to southern California, and two of them still live there.

Geez. I thought stepping foot outside in wind chills 34 below zero last week was risky. But assigning four officials from somewhere less than two hours from LA to the Rams’ biggest game of the year? If literally anything goes wrong, which it did, opposing fans will be out for their heads in no time.

I’m not saying these referees blew the call on purpose. I’m just sayin’.

New Orleans found a way to have fun with it though. The cover of The Times-Picayune in New Orleans Monday had nothing on the front cover but the words, “Super Bowl? What Super Bowl?” Some call it petty. I call it genius.

I don’t think the Patriots deserved to be playing in the Super Bowl either. They got lucky when Dee Ford lined up offsides with a minute left in the game, negating an interception that would have clinched a win for Kansas City. Instead, New England scored and eventually won in overtime.

Also, Tom Brady is nowhere near GOAT-caliber. But that’s a discussion to be had later. 

The New Orleans Saints are 2019 Super Bowl Champions the same way Morgan Freeman narrates every movie: 

It should be the case. But sadly, it isn’t.


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