Up by one with 10 seconds left to play against the Minnesota Vikings, The New Orleans Saints were already packing their bags to head to the 2018 NFC Championship Game in last year’s playoffs. What happened next can only be described with one word: miracle.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs would catch a pass in the last seconds and run it back to the end zone, ending the Saints’ season in devastating fashion. The voice of announcer Joe Buck painting a picture of the play as it occurred would haunt Saints fans for months.
Fast forward to one year and six days later. The Saints had finished the 2018 NFL season with a 13-3 record, good enough to earn the top seed in the NFC and home field advantage in the championship game.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome was packed with 73,000 screaming fans on Jan. 20, creating a deafening atmosphere for the visiting Los Angeles Rams who had lost 35-45 in an epic Week Nine showdown against this same New Orleans team.
The task at hand for the Rams was a daunting one. They understood that it would be nearly impossible to hear each other on the field in addition to facing an offense in the hands of Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who at times resembled a maestro at the peak of his ability and focus.
After a hard-fought game for the first three quarters, the game was tied nearing the end of regulation at 20-20. The Saints had reached the Rams’ 13-yard line and faced a third and 10 with 1:49 left in the game. What happened next can be described with one word: travesty.
Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman committed what many people are calling the most blatant pass interference penalty they’ve ever seen on Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis, and out of three officials within close range, not one threw a flag.
This play and the subsequent failure of NFL officials to do their job showed everyone who calls themselves a football fan that those who are supposed to uphold the integrity of the game can also seriously damage it in mere seconds. Had a flag been thrown, the Saints could’ve potentially run the clock down to under 15 seconds and kick a field goal to make it 23-20 with almost no time for a Rams rebuttal. Los Angeles would go onto win the game in overtime 26-20, advancing to Super Bowl LIII.
There are many people who say that the Saints should’ve played a better game; maybe score two touchdowns in the first quarter instead of two field goals, maybe play better goal line defense to prevent a wide open 1-yard touchdown reception. There are also many people who wanted to see a rematch between the two teams as a make-up for the missed call.
On Change.org, Terry Cassreino, a New Orleans native, created a petition for an NFC Championship rematch and now a week later it has received over 730,000 signatures. He was unsurprisingly met with silence from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, despite having hundreds of thousands of supporters. Most NFL fans are calling for something—anything—to be done by league officials, but the continuing failure to do so has further damaged the integrity of the sport.
Saints head coach Sean Payton, along with numerous players, explained their disappointment in the way they lost the game. Many players, analysts and fans feel that the Saints were robbed of a trip to go to the Super Bowl.
Every week we tune into NFL games on television or attend them in person expecting the best and most believable product on the field. After what happened that Sunday in the Superdome in a game of that magnitude, it seems that the NFL doesn’t care to listen to fan reactions or even give the common courtesy to issue an official apology. The league has gone a step too far for many people, and their continued silence might very well cause the integrity of the NFL to drastically fall off, and make Americans find something else to watch from September to January.