Our view: Not always perfect, refs part of game
Fans and coaches of the New Orleans Saints have a remarkably short memory. Sunday, the Los Angeles Rams beat the Saints 26-23 in overtime and earned a spot in next month's Super Bowl against New England. The Rams' win came after a controversial p...
Fans and coaches of the New Orleans Saints have a remarkably short memory.
Sunday, the Los Angeles Rams beat the Saints 26-23 in overtime and earned a spot in next month's Super Bowl against New England. The Rams' win came after a controversial play late in the fourth quarter, after what replays confirmed was a blown call by a referee.
With less than two minutes to play in the fourth quarter, Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw a short pass to Tommylee Lewis, but Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman hit Lewis before the ball arrived. That's illegal, and a penalty should have been called. That Robey-Coleman wasn't even looking for the ball and all but tackled Lewis only exacerbated fans' anguish.
At the time, the game was tied at 20. After the incomplete pass, the Saints were forced to kick a field goal; Los Angeles answered with a game-tying field goal with 19 seconds to play, forcing overtime, eventually leading to the Rams' win. If pass interference had been called, it would have given the Saints the ball at the 6-yard line, virtually ensuring that New Orleans could run down the clock and score in the final seconds to advance to the Super Bowl.
Even the defender, Robey-Coleman, knows he committed the penalty. He said so in the locker room after the game.
Of course, New Orleans fans, coaches and players are outraged.
But they have forgotten the 2010 NFC championship game, when referees missed several calls that could have given the Vikings a win instead of New Orleans. Among them was a vicious hit on quarterback Brett Favre, leading to a second-half interception that changed the momentum of the game. The Saints won in overtime and went to the Super Bowl.
That was the year the Saints were offering cash bounties for players who delivered vicious hits against opponents. Among the league's findings: That Saints players had indeed targeted Favre.
Not only did the league acknowledge that referees should have called a penalty for the hit on Favre in the NFC title game, but it later came down on the Saints in what now is known as "Bountygate." Several coaches and executives from the Saints were suspended by the NFL.
Back to Sunday's game. In a post-game interview, coach Sean Payton said referees "blew the call." Louisiana Gov. John Edwards joined in, saying "at least the refs can't take away Mardi Gras." Radio talk shows in Louisiana have added to a conspiracy theory that the NFL specifically wanted Los Angeles in the Super Bowl.
It's all hogwash. It was simply a missed call - one of literally thousands that happen each year, whether on the big-time stage of the NFL or on a high school football field in North Dakota.
It's a human element that fans must acknowledge, and one that takes (the Saints' loss Sunday) and much as it gives (the Saints' win over the Vikings in the 2010 NFC championship).
Whining about it after the fact doesn't do much good, and it certainly doesn't help teach young players that referees are to be respected and their decisions - while not always perfect - are just part of the game.
Herald editorial board