Look: the officials didn’t make Drew Brees throw a horrific interception in overtime, and they didn’t make Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein nail a 57-yard game-winning field goal despite a low snap a few plays later. In fact, after a quarter and a half where the Saints jumped out to a 13-3 lead and the Rams seemed deeply confused on offense, the Rams were mostly the better team, and they were rewarded with a 26-23 win and a date in the Super Bowl with the winner of Patriots-Chiefs.

But the officials did miss two clear pass interference fouls on Rams nickel cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman in the fourth quarter. The first one came on the first play of the fourth quarter, on third-and-seven from the Rams’ 47.

That’s a bad non-call, but at least Robey-Coleman makes a play on the ball. All anyone in New Orleans will be talking about anyway is this play, on third down from the 12-yard line with 1:48 left and the score tied at 20.

Advertisement

That’s Robey-Coleman committing blatant and uncalled pass interference on Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis, which stopped the clock and held the Saints to a field goal with 1:45 remaining.

Advertisement

Of course, this is football—it’s contingent as hell and always unfair to reduce it to one play. Why did Sean Payton throw it on first down from the Rams’ 13 with only 1:58 left? The Rams only had two timeouts left and the subsequent incompletion saved them a full 40 seconds.

The call is spectacularly bad, though: it wasn’t just a missed pass interference. Robey-Coleman hit Lewis in the helmet and easily could have been called for leading with his head. Payton was right to say after the game that it was “as a obvious a call” as could possibly be missed; he certainly speaks for Saints fans when he says that “we’ll probably never get over it.” For his part, Robey-Coleman admitted that he committed the penalty intentionally to prevent a touchdown because he was beat. (ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry says that Robey-Coleman told her that officials told him the ball was tipped on the play.)

Advertisement

The Saints, hilariously, have now ended consecutive seasons with Super Bowl-caliber rosters with one of the worst missed tackles in NFL history and one of the worst non-calls in NFL history. Drew Brees said after the game that he’s not retiring, and I look forward to seeing how his team eats shit next year.