October 27, 2020

Blown call not only cause of Saints’ loss in NFC title game

The city of New Orleans, never the sanest of places in the best of times, has lost its mind.

In the wake of the Saints’ stomach-churning loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC championship game on Sunday, which turned on a blown call by the officials late in the fourth quarter, the city’s residents have come unglued.

Some want to sue and make the NFL replay the game. Some are calling for boycotts of the Super Bowl between the Rams and the New England Patriots. One guy emailed me to insist that the Saints lost because of a Voodoo idol that flashed on TV screens nationwide during the game, was not immediately rejected by Christians, and thus put the Saints out of God’s favor.

Clearly, it is not a loss that Saints fans are going to forget or forgive any time soon.

When the anger fades, however, people should eventually realize that the blame and frustration for the loss should not rest solely on side judge Gary Cavaletto and down judge Patrick Turner for missing such a blatant penalty in a crucial spot.

Some of it should rest with the Saints themselves.

Anyone who has ever played or watched a sport realizes that officials miss calls. Most are not as bad as the non-call in Sunday’s game, but they are part of every game at every level. And, when it happens, there quickly comes a point when all the ranting and raving in the world won’t do you a bit of good. The call (or non-call in this case) is made, won’t be changed, and the clock is ticking for the next play to be run.

On Sunday, the Saints forgot that one fundamental law of sports. Everybody in the Superdome also seemed to forget there was a lot of football left to play.

Head coach Sean Payton was berating the officials deep into overtime. The rowdy crowd that had anticipated celebrating a victory turned all of its emotion onto the officials instead of helping the home team beat the Rams.

The Saints still could have won had they gotten a defensive stop in the last 1:41 of the game, scored in overtime, or stopped the Rams when they got the ball again. They went 0-for-3 on those fronts, in large part because they lost control of their emotions and the situation.

There is a lot of understandable and well-placed anger directed at the officials. It was a terrible mistake and they should be disciplined by the NFL, if not fired.
But that was far from the last mistake made in that game.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com