Nine years after an NFC championship game in New Orleans forced the NFL to overhaul the overtime rules, the NFL has more overhauling to do.
With the Rams stealing the NFC championship in overtime from the Saints, the league office will be under siege for the inexplicable non-call at the end of regulation that kept the Saints from running the clock down to the final seconds and winning the game with a walk-off field goal.
Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman not only interfered with Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis but also applied an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit on a defenseless receiver. Inexplicably, neither penalty was called. The non-call lit a fuse that burned throughout the rest of the game and will now explode.
Saints coach Sean Payton, a member of the Competition Committee, will be tempted to unload. And he should, fine be damned. Few horrible calls have had a bigger impact on the game, especially at a time when the technology exists to fix any and all errors that happen in real time.
It’s a shame that it will take something like this to wake up the Commissioner and the other stewards of the game, but if they don’t wake up now they never will.
They may have no choice. The scrutiny arising from Sunday’s embarrassment will be unprecedented, and it should be. There’s no excuse for such mistakes to be made, no reason for the available technology to not be used to fix their errors in real time.
Too much is riding on these decisions. From the money to the trophies to the legacies to the basic and fundamental integrity of the game, the league should be ashamed that this happened, and the league should be committed to fixing it.
If the league decides to act, the league will act like it has had some sort of awakening. The awakening should have come long before today’s outcome. But if today’s outcome prevents another one like it, maybe at some point it will have been worth it.
Saints fans, however, will never agree. And they never should. Today’s debacle was avoidable, and the league’s failure to ensure that all mechanisms are available to avoid and fix such blunders is the reason for it.