Will the NFL Overturn the No-Call Heard Round-the-World?


In the closing minutes of the NFC Championship Game between the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams, a pass interference (and helmet-t0-helmet contact) went uncalled. The no call didn’t necessarily rob the Saints of a trip to the Super Bowl, but it definitely hurt their chances. If the pass was caught, or the refs called the foul, the Saint would likely have been able to run out the clock and kick a short field goal that would have cemented their win over the Rams. Instead,  the Saints will watch the Super Bowl from their homes… Or will they?

It seems unlikely, but a little known NFL rule could allow commissioner Roger Goodell to intervene in the situation. Rule 17, Section 2, Article 1, as noted by Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, reads like this:

“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.”

Now, I said that the use of this rule, in this particular instance, seems unlikely and I meant it. If Goodell were to invoke the Rule 17, Section 2, Article 1, he could either have both teams replay the NFC Championship (…what?) or reverse the the game’s outcome, and send the Saints to face the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, instead of the Rams (WHAT THE F**K?!). Both options are unheard of in pro sports, and the backlash would be severe, which is why I say Goodell is unlikely to use the rule.

That said, something needs to be done. Saints head-coach Sean Payton said in a press-conference after the game that someone from the league issued him an apology, and a public statement to similar effect seems inevitable.

“Just getting off the phone with the league office. They blew the call,” Payton told reporters after the game. “Man, there were a lot of opportunities though, but that call puts it first-and-10 and we’d only need three plays. It’s a game-changing call. That’s where it’s at, so it’s disappointing. For a call like that not to be made, it’s just hard to swallow.”

That said, the refs certainly missed a call, but they had no chance to reverse it. Unlike the Canadian Football League and NCAA, the NFL does not allow reviews on pass-interference calls/no calls. That seems likely to change, but it will not change the outcome of the game, and it will slow down pace-of-play in future games, a problem the NFL and Goodell are aware of.

In the meantime, Saints players and fans are calling on the commissioner to use his power to influence the call-not-heard-round-the-world (patent pending). Saints’ receiver, Michael Thomas is among those urging the commissioner to act.

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Watch the Rams (or maybe the Saints?!)-Patriots play in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, February 2 on CBS.

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