Tuesday, January 21, 2020
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A non-call makes the Rams the NFC champs

A late-game pass in the NFC championship game yesterday, from Saints quarterback Drew Brees toward Tommylee Lewis, went incomplete, because pass interference was committed by the defender, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. The pass that would have given the Saints a clear opportunity to win went down as one of the most annoying non-calls on the football field this year.

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In an NFC championship game Sunday that cost millions of dollars to produce, with the Super Bowl hopes of fans on both sides riding on every play, with dozens of video cameras shooting from every angle, with cries of shameful errors from broadcast teams and their correspondents, some of whom are NFL officials themselves, and with split-second execution of a critical incomplete pass, the line judge was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Penalties—and those dozen video cameras clearly showed this was a pass interference and holding before the ball left Brees’s hand—are judgment calls and not currently subject to review by video replay.

Calls concerning facts, such as whether a ball crossed the goal line before a runner’s knee hit the ground or whether a receiver touched both feet in-bounds with possession of the ball, are subject to video review, but the current NFL rules put penalties in the category of “judgment calls” and staunchly shield them from review.

The rules may change, given this obvious mistake. “I have been in touch with the NFL regarding yesterday’s events and will aggressively pursue changes in NFL policies to ensure no team and fan base is ever put in a similar position again,” the New York Times quoted Saints owner Gayle Benson as saying in a statement Monday. “The NFL must always commit to providing the most basic of expectations—fairness and integrity.”

In the interest of fairness, I believe penalties should be subject to video replay review. This is a play where the evidence would be considered indisputable, because everyone who watches this game knows the rules for pass interference.

Robey-Coleman clearly broke those rules, and Lewis should have been given the yardage, after the assistance of millions of dollars of video equipment and slow-motion replay was summoned. Whether a player moved too much in an offsides-vs-false start call should perhaps be excepted, but the facts here are undeniable: contact was made before the ball arrived that was excessive and prevented the catch. The non-call should have been overturned.

Life is unfair in many ways, especially in terms of decisions school districts and state governments make about funding, but if we can start by righting some of the small wrongs, maybe there’s hope. Life is also unfair in terms of the Electoral College, which has twice in the last six elections given the presidency to the man who did not receive the most votes, but making that change will require amending the Constitution. Are you for fairness and equal representation, given current technology?

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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