Photo by: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
For the second straight year, the New Orleans Saints suffer a devastating loss in the playoffs. This time, though, the feeling is different. After last season’s Minneapolis Miracle we saw the city, fans, and team all embrace and show support for one of their own. This time around it feels more like being completely powerless. There’s no individual player to console, no young star to rally around, no mistakes to be taken back to the film room and worked on. This feels, to the players, coaches, fans, and other spectators like a robbery.
Could the Saints have done more earlier? Absolutely. Two opening drives in scoring position go for field goals as opposed to touchdowns the Saints leave eight points on the field. But despite that, New Orleans still found its way within the 20-yard line of Los Angeles, in scoring position with less than two minutes on the clock. They were in prime position to run down the clock and take the lead with less than 20 second left to play in the game. You can make an argument that the Saints should have run it on first down, but it’s not a good one. The most that would have done is burned an additional timeout which didn’t affect the end of regulation anyway. The largest and most decisive factor of this loss for the city of New Orleans was the egregious no-call. A no-call unlike anything people have seen. So egregious that even the league itself admitted immediately that they’d screwed up. Telling Coach Payton that the play was not only pass interference but also a helmet-to-helmet hit. Now what will that lead to? Nothing in the vein of immediacy. Likely some rule changes for the next league year, but there’s no soothing the burn right now.
The Saints defense got a shot at holding the Rams from converting on a game-tying field goal but couldn’t. Drew Brees starts with the ball in overtime and throws an interception while taking a hit. Yes. The Saints had their chances after the penalty. However, neither of those possessions would have been necessary had correct call been made at the correct time.
Saints fans, among others, have started a petition to force the NFL to allow a rematch of the Saints-Rams game next weekend. It’s got a ton of signatures, feel free to add yours here, but it’s highly doubtful that anything will come of it. As I’m writing this, the petition sits at nearly 250,000 signatures and counting its way up to 300,000. Remember, a petition is nothing more than a request. So whether or not anything changes because of it is still contigent upon the cooperation of the league. Of course, there’s the rule that’s been circulating as well that present opportunity and is likely the catalyst for this motion in the first place. Pro Football Talk posted an article last night discussing two areas in the NFL rulebook that, in theory, give the commissioner power to overturn the decision of the game. The most relevant being Rule 17, Section 2, Article 3 which states:
“The Commissioner has the sole authority to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary and/or corrective measures if any club action, non-participant interference, or calamity occurs in an NFL game which the Commissioner deems so extraordinarily unfair or outside the accepted tactics encountered in professional football that such action has a major effect on the result of the game.”
According to Pro Football Talk, the commissioner could:
“…turn back time to the spot of the penalty that wasn’t called, put the teams back on the field from that point in the game, give the Saints first and goal at the spot of the foul, put 1:49 on the clock, and let the game proceed, tied at 20, with the Rams having one time out left.”
This, of course, won’t happen as it would stir up so many other teams feeling they were ripped off this season because that’s simply how poor the officiating has been this season. This no-call is just the pinnacle of what we’ve been seeing all season and this comes from a team of officials that supposedly earned their way to coaching in the playoffs. Let’s not forget that Rams fans actually had a petition of their own to remove Referee Bill Vinovich from this game’s coaching staff. Turns out it worked in their favor.
Now, there’s truth in the idea that the Saints still had their chances. But in an ideal setting – actually, not even an ideal setting. In a run-of-the-mill game, any competent official would have thrown a flag. But since one wasn’t thrown, the came went on and the result is the result. I couldn’t imagine being a player having to go back out there and continue to play a game that should have been down on a knee for the most part. Demoralizing, I imagine.
But, the Rams celebrate their victory and head to Super Bowl LIII. And I’m not mad at them for doing so. Sean McVay seems to be the only Rams player to believe that the call was indeed off of a bang-bang play. Todd Gurley posted an edited photo of him doing a jersey swap with a ref, Nickell Robey-Coleman admitted to the “wiping out” Tommylee Lewis because he was beat and needed to prevent the touchdown, and Marcus Peters said that they know they got away with one. I can’t blame them. They get a trip to the biggest game of their lives, there’s no since in doing anything other than basking in the chance.
The road for the Saints gets tough next season with a very strong first-place schedule to manage. But there’s hope to be sure. Drew Brees says he plans to be back to make another run at it. The Saints will return a major amount of their starters next season with the only starters set for Free Agency are Wil Lutz, Mark Ingram, and PJ Williams. Lutz and Ingram are likely to return and Williams would have to beat out Patrick Robinson in his return anyway. The Saints don’t have a ton of cap space (Only $11M estimated for now) but with some restructuring and extensions, Mickey Loomis can do his usual Voodoo to get the Saints in contention for free agents. Unfortunately, the Saints don’t have the draft picks they’d hope to have at this moment. But retaining their second-round 60 overall pick should allow them to bring in a new weapon for Brees, particularly at the TE spot if they don’t sign one first.
So the Saints are here again. Suffering from the sting of another devastating playoff loss in a fashion none of us expected to be able to surpass last year’s divisional round game. However, unlike the Minneapolis Miracle where the focus was on rallying around a teammate. This time, the team is just plain pissed and will look to seek revenge in 2019.
Follow Ross on Twitter @RossJacksonASC