Beyond The Mic: Processing The Non PI Call That Kept The Saints Out The Super Bowl
Less than 24 hours after the Saints loss to the Rams in the NFC Championship game, I'm still trying to process my emotions as a Saints fan.
Last year, I wrote about dealing with the gut wrenching sentiment following Marcus Williams' whiff.
Losses like the one last year make some fans question if the pain of sports fandom is worth it. I believe it is. The misery a tried and true sports fans endures makes the championship moments all the more worth it.
The 2011 Saints season ended with maximum fan pain. Last year was similar.
Yesterday was somehow more painful, and the non pass interference call on Los Angeles cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman is the biggest reason why.
Did New Orleans have many other opportunities to win, or as some would say, "not lose" the game? Yes.
Has the Saints offense struggled down the stretch? Yes.
Were there other missed non-calls against both teams? Yes.
Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's focus on the non-call that will haunt Saints fans for eternity.
When analyzing the play that was ruled an incomplete pass on 3rd and 10 with 1:45 left in the 4th quarter, one must apply timing, context and the degree of failure on the part of official.
The analogy I'm about to use is somewhat dark, I admit.
Let's start with the degree of failure on the part of the official.
If a guy named Tony who works construction lifts a heavy piece of machinery using his back rather than his legs, despite the fact that he's been told not too, coached not too, and knows he's not supposed to, and hurts his back, it's his fault.
Tony now needs surgery, and he put himself in that situation. Surgery is serious, but the good news is it has a 99.9% success rate. The surgeon tells Tony it's the easiest operation to perform.
When Tony goes under the knife, the surgeon fails miserably. An operation that works 99.9% of the time has failed, and Tony will never recover.
Who is to blame for Tony's situation? Him for lifting with his back or the surgeon for the deplorable error?
Pointing out Tony should've never been lifting with his back isn't wrong, but focusing on it more than the surgeon's mistake lets the surgeon off the hook.
The surgery was an easy one. The pass interference was an easy call to make. Saying, "Well officials make mistakes, and the Saints shouldn't have put themselves in that situation" completely ignores how bad the non-call was.
It wasn't a bang-bang play. It wasn't questionable. It wasn't a risky surgical operation. You don't leave scalpels inside of patients, and you don't leave your flag in your pocket when it's the easiest call in the world to make.
Timing is everything.
Nine days ago, Georgia State beat ULM in basketball 74-73. They "won" on a buzzer-beater after D'
If the officials call traveling, a travel violation as blatant as Robey-Coleman's pass interference, ULM wins.
If the play occurs at the end of the first half, the amount of potential variables that may have played out in the second half are endless, and we'll never know.
Timing, coupled with the abhorrent nature of the missed call changed the outcome of the game, and the Sun Belt quickly announced that the entire officiating crew would be suspended.
While the NFL told coach Sean Payton they blew the call, and that Robey-Coleman could've been called for a helmet-to-helmet hit, the league has yet to release any statement publicly.
If PI is called, the Saints would've run the clock down to 12 seconds and kicked a go-ahead field goal. We'll never know if Lutz would've made it (though he made his 31 yarder with ease on the next play and has never missed a field goal in his career from inside 30 yards), or if the Rams could've pulled off a miracle like the Vikings did the year before, but the odds of the Saints winning if the correct call is made are similar to Tony having a successful surgery.
To say "one call doesn't change the outcome of a game" is a worthless argument that ignores timing, context and one of the most nefarious non-calls in NFL history.
In the context of a single play, it cost the Saints the game, and their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. A game played in Atlanta, against the Patriots.
The ultimate dream of Saints fans, taken away by utter incompetence.
Payton said the team will never get over it.
Neither will Saints fans.