Marred by disappointment, the 2019 NFL Super Bowl concluded with the New England Patriots winning their sixth championship game in franchise history, defeating the L.A. Rams 13-3. For fans of the sport, the victory came to the surprise of very few, as the Patriots have been a perennial dynasty for the past 20 years. Led by veteran quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick, the Patriots held the explosive offense of the upstart Rams in check, led by third-year quarterback Jared Goff and 33-year old head coach Sean McVay.
Before the game had started, fans across the country expressed outrage against the matchup after a controversial play in the NFC Championship cost the New Orleans Saints a possible spot in the Super Bowl.
On a 3rd down play with under two minutes to play and New Orleans trailing by three points, Saints quarterback Drew Brees lofted a pass in the area of wide-receiver Tommylee Lewis, but he was knocked to the ground by Rams defender Nickell Robey-Coleman before the ball arrived in a blatantly obvious pass-interference call. The referees neglected to throw a flag and the game would continue without penalty.
The Saints kicked a field goal to tie the game but would ultimately lose in overtime as the Rams advanced to the Super Bowl. Had there been a pass-interference call against Robey-Coleman, New Orleans would have had the ball on the Rams 7-yard line with a chance to win the game and a shot against the Patriots for the championship.
The people of New Orleans were furious with the decision of the game, and rightfully so. Two days after the game, a New Orleans attorney filed a lawsuit against NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell, on behalf of all Saints season ticket holders and its fan base, to compel Goodell to enforce a NFL rule that would allow the result of the NFC Championship game to be reversed, replayed in full or from the point of controversy.
Nothing happened in time before the start of the Super Bowl, with Goodell releasing a statement two weeks later saying that, “…They’re officiating a game that moves very quickly, and they’re not going to get it right every time.”
A proposed matchup between the two teams to begin the 2019 season is supposedly in talks, but is that what the fans want to see?
Under NFL rules, certain plays can be reviewed. Calls involving sidelines, goal lines and end lines, passes and other detectable issues involving whether a player was down by contact and if there were an appropriate number of players on the field are fair game to be reviewed by replay officials.
An instance of whether a judgement call made by an official however is not subject to review, which leads into the question of why not?
With the influx of camera equipment set up for TV broadcasts, having these extra eyes on the sidelines should come in handy for referees and replay officials when trying to decide the outcome of a close decision. Having a game hinge on the weight of human error is an outdated practice that impacts teams too often.
Providing NFL officials with the proper tools to make the correct calls would lead to more clarity of rules and also hold them to a higher standard to uphold calls in controversial situations.
If there were a rule change that would allow coaches to challenge an officials observation during a game in a regulated way, there is a chance modern games would end with less controversy.
They ought to keep the rule in place that allows NFL coaches two challenges per-game, but allow one official decision into question. When officials deliborate, let the official who made the call present his case but have the other officials either confirm or deny that the call is true or false.
I would much rather at the end of the day have a call confirmed or reversed mid-game rather than having to hear days after a controversial loss that my team was cheated out of a victory and the NFL acknowledges that the officials made a mistake.
Had the Saints represented the NFC, maybe the Super Bowl would have been a more intriguing matchup than the scoring disaster that was played last Sunday.