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Controversial Saints no-call Sunday nothing new for angry fan bases

Florida Football Insiders

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John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The controversial pass interference no call that helped enable the L.A. Rams to come from behind and beat the New Orleans Saints 26-23 in overtime for the NFC Championship Sunday night continues.

However, over the course of the last two days of hyperbole and exaggeration, we felt it was time to now give some perspective that the Saints are not any more aggrieved than some of the other classic blown calls in this century in big games in the NFL Playoffs and also, one college football championship game.

First, no one is arguing that the league and Bill Vinovich’s officiating crew clearly missed what should have been a pass interference call (above) on a third down play, that would have given the Saints a first down, a chance to run the clock all the way down and kick a game-winning field goal with just seconds left.

However it’s also not in dispute that the Saints were playing at home, with a 13 – 0 lead, against a quarterback (Jared Goff), who had never played in a postseason road game in the NFL. Yet, New Orleans allowed Goff and the Rams offense to rally not once, but twice, to tie them in the second half.

This included, in the final minute of the game, where the Saints could have still stopped the Rams after the controversy and the non-pass interference call would have been an afterthought.

Clearly, New Orleans also won the toss, had the ball first and could have won the game with a touchdown like the Patriots did later in the evening in overtime in Kansas City for the AFC Championship. In fact, New Orleans did this in the regular season win at Atlanta, when they tied the game, forced overtime, won the toss, and then, took the kickoff and went right down to score a touchdown to end it before the Falcons ever touched the ball.

Back to Sunday, that did not happen. As Drew Brees was intercepted after being hit as he threw, by former Gators and Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler. Once again, the Saints defense also failed to stop the inexperienced Goff, as he moved them the extra 20 yards into field-goal range and Greg Zuerlein booted Los Angeles into the Super Bowl.

The point of detailing all of that out above is: the Saints still had chances after the non-pass interference call. Chances at home. Chances, even with the lead in the final minute to seal that game. Chances in overtime to win the game and be playing the Super Bowl.

And, our further point we are about to make is: this blown non-call was no less heinous in a humongous game than several other examples:

The biggest one is the Miami Hurricanes Fiesta Bowl National Championship loss to Ohio State in January of 2003.

In that game, in overtime, Miami had an opportunity to stop Ohio State on 4th down to prevent them from tying the game with a touchdown. When Craig Krenzel threw a pass into the end zone that fell the ground in complete on fourth down, the game was over. The Hurricanes ran onto the field and began to celebrate the win and another national title.

That is, until it was discovered that one of the officials had thrown his flag for defensive pass interference. It gave Ohio State new life, a new set of downs and they tied the game on touchdown, shortly thereafter. They eventually scored another TD in the second OT, stopped Miami and won the controversial game.

15 years later Hurricanes fans are still bemoaning that “iffy flag decision”, which most believed was wrong. And, there is no dispute that that play cost them winning the national championship in that moment.

And we’re talking college football’s Super Bowl being decided on a fourth-down call by an official’s flag keeping the game alive.

That’s a bigger deal than Sunday in the Superdome. Period. The End.

Moving on though:

The next memorable nightmare is for Tampa Bay Buccaneer fans and it came in the equally important 2000 NFC Championship game in St Louis. That’s when the Buccaneers had a completion from quarterback Shaun King to receiver Bert Emanuel overturned on instant replay that would have given the Bucs a key first down, while trailing 11 – 6 in the waning two minutes of the game.

Instead, the replay overturned it saying that even though Emmanuel had caught the ball, part of it touched the ground. It was now fourth down and the Bucs could not convert. The Rams got the ball, won the game and eventually, Kurt Warner and company won the Super Bowl over the Titans after that.

While that replay overturn of the Emanuel catch was not the final play of the game, it killed any realistic chance for Tampa Bay to get a first down or touchdown in that moment. Sure, they could have converted on fourth down, and sure, they could have eventually gotten in the end zone. And, the St.Louis Rams deserve credit for doing what there Los Angeles version did Sunday. Take advantage of the call, play defense on the next play and win the game.

It doesn’t make Tampa Bay fans feel any better that they felt “robbed” in St. Louis almost 20 years ago.

Oakland Raiders fans are still fuming at the league, the Patriots, Tom Brady and instant replay after their Divisional round playoff game in January 2002 had apparently been decided when DB Charles Woodson famously stripped Tom Brady of the ball with less than two minutes remaining with Raiders up by three.

The Raiders recovered the “fumble” and would have been able to kneel on the ball twice and run the clock out. However, again, replay overturned that fumble on the famous “Tuck Rule” (that has now been modified).

The Patriots got the ball back, and the Raiders could not stop them from kicking an Adam Vinatieri field goal to tie them in the snow. And, a little while later, Vinatieri won the game in overtime with a second snowy field goal.

Sure, under the same premise that we laid out for the Saints above: the Raiders could have continued to stop the Patriots from tying the game or winning it in overtime with a field goals after the replay overturn. However, that doesn’t mean that the officials call was any less worse on Raider fans. They still believe this day it should have been their ball and they should have been kneeling on it and going to the AFC Championship Game the following week in Pittsburgh.

And then there’s the Dallas Cowboys and the infamous catch/no catch involving Tony Romo’s pass to receiver Dez Bryant on a fourth-down play the final 5:00 in the Divisional round game in January 2015 at Lambeau Field. That catch/no catch, is more egregious than the Emmanuel Buccaneers play or the Saints play on Sunday.

It was a fourth-down play for Dallas and it was called complete for a first and goal to potentially help Dallas win the game with a TD. Relive the moment here:

But, when replay overturned it, the Packers got the ball because of the call.

Now, in fairness, and different from the Miami Hurricanes, Buccaneers and Raiders, where the game was essentially over, the Cowboys were like the Saints. They had a chance on defense to stop Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to get the ball back once more. They could not. The Packers got two first downs and ran the clock out.

Now, Cowboy fans are screaming five years later about that scenario above, many of them not remembering they could have gotten the ball back once more.

Kind of like New Orleans fans, wounds still fresh from Sunday don’t want to accept that they still could have won the game multiple times/ways.

We acknowledge Saints fans are never going to forget this, and they’re going to constantly blame the officials no call for the game they didn’t win.

But we just laid out above, it’s hardly the first time and many other fan bases (including two in our state) have dealt with the same thing with a huge game on the line in the 2000s. And, have had just as much right to scream, too.

This is nothing new.

Welcome to human beings officiating, instant replay controversies and the game of football.

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