Los Angeles cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman has admitted he “got away” with a blatant pass interfernce in the Rams’ controversial victory over the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game on Sunday.
After rallying from an early 13-0 deficit, the Rams stunned the Saints with Greg Zuerlein’s 57-yard field goal in overtime for a 26-23 victory – an outcome that might not have been possible without an egregious mistake by the officials in the closing minutes of regulation.
Robey-Coleman committed a clear penalty with a helmet-to-helmet hit on Tommylee Lewis well before the pass arrived inside the 5, forcing the Saints to settle for Wil Lutz’s 31-yard field goal that made it 23-20 with 1:41 left in regulation.
“Came to the sideline, looked at the football gods and was like, ‘Thank you,”’ Robey-Coleman said. “I got away with one tonight.”
After the no-call, Jared Goff had enough time to lead the Rams down the field for Zuerlein’s tying field goal, a 48-yarder with 15 seconds remaining. New Orleans won the coin toss and got the ball first in overtime. But, with Dante Fowler Jr. in his face and striking his arm, Drew Brees fluttered up a pass that was picked off by John Johnson III, who was able to hang on to the interception while stumbling backward.
The Rams weren’t able to do much offensively, but it didn’t matter. Zuerlein booted through the winning field goal from just inside midfield with plenty of room to spare. The NFL said it the longest game-winning kick in playoff history.
If the pass interference penalty had been called, the Saints could’ve run most of the time off the clock to set up a winning field goal from chip-shot range.
“Being that it happened right there in front of the person who would be the one to make the call, and everyone in the stands saw it, everyone watching at home on TV saw it, that makes it even more difficult to take,” Brees said.
“Because of this, I’m sure there will be a lot of talk about reviewing penalties, perhaps game-changing penalties.”
Speaking after the game, referee crew chief Bill Vinovich said the no-call was “a judgment call by the covering official” and that the fact that the play took place in the tension-packed final minutes of the game “absolutely (did) not” have an impact on the official’s decision.
Saints coach Sean Payton, however, went to NFL vice president of officiating Al Riverton and said he was told, “We messed it up.”
“Just getting off the phone with the league office. They blew the call,” Payton said.
“I don’t know if there was ever a more obvious pass interference call.”
Payton argued that the Saints should have had an automatic first down on the penalty and could have run the game clock to the final seconds before making their field goal attempt from point-blank range on the final play, likely sending them to the Super Bowl instead of the Rams.
“It’s tough to get over it,” Payton said. “It was as obvious a call (as could be) and how two guys can look at that and come up and arrive with their decision…
“It happened though, so we can’t dwell on it. We’ll probably never get over it.”
Payton, who is on the NFL Competition Committee, called for greater use of replay in such situations.
“It’s a tough way to lose a game, especially when you’re in a position like that to win it,” Payton said. “All more reason we need more replay.
“We all want to get it right. We’ve got the technology where we can.”
Published by AP, 21st January 2019 on foxsports.com.au