NFL admits in court documents that calls in NFC Championship game were missed.
The NFL again admitted an officiating error in the NFC Championship between the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints, this time in court documents saying a call in fourth quarter should have been defensive pass interference or illegal contact to the helmet.
The league responded to a lawsuit filed by New Orleans Saints fans who want NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to order a replay the end of the game. A respond to lawsuit was filed Sunday in the United States District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana and the league wants the lawsuit tossed.
"And, because the officials on the field are humans, like the players and coaches, errors will happen," court papers said. "The NFL parties do not dispute that they have previously advised the Saints, including the club's head coach, that one or more penalties for pass interference or illegal helmet-to-helmet contact were mistakenly not called late in the NFC Championship Game, and that the NFL would like its officials on the field to make these calls. This was acknowledged immediately after the game to the coach of the New Orleans Saints by NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron."
The league says that "overruling the Referee on the field and directing that a penalty be called" is not under Goodell's discretion, and cites NFL Rules 15 and 17 among other rules. They added that fans have no "legally cognizable right" to ask any court to ask Goodell to act on an officiating mistake.
The no-call came with under two minutes left in the game with the Saints on the Rams' 13-yard line. On a third-and-10 situation, quarterback Drew Brees threw an incomplete pass to Tommylee Lewis. But the Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman appeared to interfere.
The Saints settled for a field goal to make the score 23–20 and gave Los Angeles one last drive attempt. The Rams tied up the game with a field goal to force overtime.
Los Angeles sealed the win with a 57-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein.
Following the game, Robey-Coleman admitted the controversial call was pass interference.
The Rams beat the Saints 26–23 in overtime in the NFC Championship and will face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday.
Saints head coach Sean Payton said he called the NFL office following the loss and officials told him they blew a controversial no-call on a potential pass interference.