Official failure: the missed calls that shook the NFL

Thomas Fougere, Multimedia Director

The NFL’s conference championships were won last weekend by the Patriots and the Rams. The Drake Curse was in full affect as no team was able to win in regular time and both games were sent into overtime. Fans, players, and coaches had strong opinions about the games, especially in the officiating category.

The hit heard round the world
A blatant pass interference committed by Rams CB Nickell Robey-Coleman with 1:49 remaining in a tied game was ignored by the officials late in Sunday’s game. If called, the Saints would have been given a first down and would’ve almost certainly ended the Rams season. The odds of Drew Brees and the Saints punching their ticket to the Superbowl would have significantly increased if the correct call was made. Instead, the Saints were forced to kick a field goal. The Rams responded by driving down the field and setting up Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein to kick a 48 yard field goal to send the game to overtime. In overtime, the Saints won the coin toss and Drew Brees struggled, throwing an ugly interception. Fans were furious as they knew if the PI had been called their fate would’ve been sealed. Instead they watched defensive backs on the Rams celebrating with the “Choppa Style,” dance. Zuerlein came on the field for an insane 57 yard field goal and sent the ball through the uprights. Just like that, the Rams will be representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.

Pick up the phone, Roger
Saints players and fans now call on the commissioner of the NFL, the king of fines and suspensions, Roger Goodell to change the outcome of this game. Saints star WR Michael Thomas did his research as he tweeted Rule 17, Section 2, Article 3 at the commissioner. This is the rule that gives Goodell the power to change the outcome of a game if something so unfair to happen (aka the missed pass interference call). With this said, the officiating was abysmal to both teams. Several Rams players were brought down by defenders grabbing their facemasks, a Saints player jumped on top of a Rams player while he was already down and the Saints were allowed to snap the ball unpenalized despite the play clock reaching zero on multiple occasions.

Questionable calls
On the AFC side, there were several calls that were controversial. One of these came late in the game where a punt appeared to be muffed by Patriots WR and return specialist, Julian Edelman. Upon further review it didn’t look like the ball was touched by Edelman, but the call on the field was “muffed punt” and to overturn a call there has to indisputable evidence. To me, the ball didn’t look touched as the balls rotation didn’t change, but some still argue that it wasn’t indisputable evidence. Later on, Chiefs DE Chris Jones grazed Tom Brady’s face mask and was called for a roughing the passer penalty that awarded New England with 15 yards and a first down. Then the most interesting one came when Dee Ford lined up offsides. The Chiefs were up by four and Tom Brady threw an interception through the hands of Rob Gronkowski. It looked like the Chiefs would have the ball with 54 seconds left… but a yellow flag was thrown on the field signaling Ford’s offsides. Chief’s HC Andy Reid now takes a problem to this because officials usually warn a player if they have lined up in the neutral zone, but in this case did not. Fans that hate the Patriots are always quick to blame the refs for helping the Patriots, but in this game the Patriots ended up with more penalties and penalty yardage than the Chiefs. Just like the earlier game, the refs were not great.

Overtime rules
Fans are taking up issues with the overtime rules as well. The overtime rules in the NFL start with a coin toss that decides who gets the ball first. If that team scores a touchdown then the game is over (how the Patriots won). If they kick a field goal, then the other team can win on a touchdown or tie again with a field goal. If the first team does not score at all, then the second team can win on a field goal (how the Rams won). Many think these rules are unfair because of the coin toss essentially deciding who wins the game. The rules used in NCAA football are different and both teams are given an opportunity to have their offense on the field. Each team starts on the 25 yard line and works to score from there. It is fast, exciting and much more than the NFL’s rules.

This Conference Championship weekend exposed many flaws in the National Football League. From replay technology lacking in comparison to other sports like tennis to the referees struggles, many are left upset. It is reflected in the lower ratings that the NFL has brought in recently. It may be time for reform or a change in leadership. Hopefully some of the officiating issues get resolved before the biggest annual sporting event just two weeks away. Go Pats!

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