As hard as Al Riveron tried to whitewash that his officials blew it (again!) against the Saints, a blown call is a blown call is a blown call.
Lost in the Rams’ 27-9 victory over the Saints was Walt Anderson and his crew denying New Orleans an 87-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the second quarter. The Saints instead were awarded the ball at their own 13. They never did score a touchdown.
The Saints obviously have bigger worries with quarterback Drew Brees missing most of the game with a right thumb injury, but the officiating mistake did not go unnoticed by New Orleans. It marks the third consecutive game a major officiating error went against them, including the NFC Championship Game in January.
“You can’t focus. . .,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “When we get poor officiating or we get an awful call like that, we can’t control that. Our focus this week is going to be on cleaning up the penalties and making sure we got the right guys on the field, too.”
Payton got his dig in, and defensive end Cameron Jordan did, too. Jordan was the player who picked up the loose ball and ran to the end zone for what should have given the Saints a 10-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
“You say a touchdown got taken away,” Jordan said, via Amie Just of the The Advocate. “I didn’t even hear the whistle. I grabbed the ball, 15, 20 yards down the field. Allegedly, a whistle was blown. Clearly, I mean, a whistle was blown. Normally, you let the play happen. Any Foot Locker — I mean, referee — usually tells you, you let the play happen and then you go back and review the play.”
That’s exactly what Riveron said should have happened, though in answering three questions from a pool reporter, the NFL’s supervisor of officials never directly admits a mistake.
“We tell our referees when in doubt to let it play out,” Riveron said in the pool report. “If it is an incomplete pass, we can always come back and make it an incomplete pass. In this situation, as it occurs here, the most we can do is give the ball to the defense. But we cannot, by rule, give them the advance. All we can do is give them the ball at the spot of the clear recovery.”