By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
You could argue that the officials cost the New Orleans Saints a trip to the Super Bowl. It didn’t quite reach that level in the other game, but the plain reality is that we heard entirely too much from the officials on the NFL’s conference championship weekend.
The call that will go down in the most infamy came in the NFC Championship Game, when Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman mauled Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis – and the officials decided to keep the flags in their pockets.
Saints head coach Sean Payton said a league official personally called him to admit they blew the call and should have flagged Robey-Coleman for pass interference, if not a personal foul for unnecessary roughness. Robey-Coleman himself admitted he was trying to take a flag on purpose because he felt Lewis had him beat for a touchdown.
There’s no telling for sure whether Lewis would have caught the ball, stayed in bounds, and made it into the end zone. But Robey-Coleman’s penalty would’ve given the Saints first-and-goal at about the 6-yard line, and perhaps led to a much different outcome in the game.
Rams supporters have some outs – “Stop them in overtime! Stop them from getting the game-tying field goal! You might not have scored a touchdown anyway!” But there’s no question that the officials blew an easy call that affected the way the game progressed in the final minutes. Everyone with an objective brain knows it.
Meanwhile, in Kansas City…
The Patriots just can’t play a big playoff game without at least one unforgettable, controversial, we-might-talk-about-this-forever moment. Patriots fans probably now have to hear it from Chiefs fans for the rest of time – “Edelman touched the ball!” That is, of course, in reference to Julian Edelman’s near-muff on a punt return with 8:47 left in the fourth quarter.
Ultimately, it appears that the officials got the call right. The combination of replays showed that the ball never touched either of Edelman’s hands, and unless you think it glanced off his right shoulder it’s hard to say contact was made. The controversy of the play is that it was initially ruled a lost fumble, so it had to be overturned.
Nonetheless, Edelman made his real mistake just two plays later, as what should’ve been a routine catch clanged off his hands and right to Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen, whose interception set up the Chiefs at the Patriots’ 23. The muffed punt would’ve put them at the 26, so technically the overturned call actually netted a positive for them in that sequence.
The officiating truly got questionable later in the fourth quarter. First they made this horrendous roughing the passer call on Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones, who basically gave Tom Brady a little whack on the shoulder pad. The penalty gave the Patriots 15 yards and a first down instead of what would’ve been third-and-7.
Roughing the passer?? Let’s just turn NFL into 2 hand touch now!— BettorIQ (@BettorIQ) January 21, 2019
They essentially made a make-up call on the Chiefs’ ensuing drive. First they called rookie cornerback J.C. Jackson for holding against Sammy Watkins. It wiped out a potential fumble recovery for the Patriots (it might have ultimately been ruled incomplete), but Jackson got a little too grabby.
The real questionable call came two plays later, when Jackson got a late flag thrown against him for pass interference. He made some contact down the field with Watkins, but arguably not nearly enough to throw a flag in that spot. Jackson’s third penalty racked up 23 yards for the Chiefs, who otherwise would’ve gotten 15 on a Kyle Van Noy roughing the passer penalty.
But, seriously. That was pass interference, and Robey-Coleman’s hit was not. Just a horrible look for NFL officiating as a whole.
There will be much said about Dee Ford’s offside penalty that negated what could’ve been a game-clinching interception for the Chiefs. But there’s really not much to be said about that penalty, because Ford was lined up offside. That’s his mistake, not the officials’.
At the end of the day, the officials are the last thing anyone wants to be talking about after a big football game. Especially one as riveting as the AFC Championship Game, which featured a great comeback by Patrick Mahomes and and even better finish for the king of game-winning drives, Tom Brady.
But the annoying reality on Monday is that too much happened between the two conference title games for the officials to get a pass. The hope now is that they take a step back and let the Rams and Patriots play in Super Bowl LIII.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.