One of the biggest topics over the course of the playoffs this year has been about a player whose team did not even reach the postseason, that being Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as other matters surrounding the organization. Part of the reason it’s been such a heavily discussed topic is because they didn’t make it out of the regular season.
Now arguably the biggest topic that will be discussed over the course of the next two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl will be about one of the teams that didn’t make it into the game after the New Orleans Saints did not get a defensive pass interference penalty near the end of regulation that would have all but assured a result in their favor.
On third and 10 from inside the red zone, Drew Brees threw to Tommylee Lewis to the right sideline incomplete, but cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman hit the wide receiver well before the ball arrived. It was an incredibly obvious mistake—and perhaps one so obvious that the league is struggling to figure out how they want to admit it.
Even though a league employee has already acknowledged the mistake, and the player who committed the penalty was very clear in thinking that it was a foul, the NFL has yet to formally address the situation by issuing a statement.
According to Mike Florio, we did not get an immediate statement last night because “the powers-that-be are haggling over the language of the statement that would admit the mistake”. So basically, from the sounds of it, they’re trying to figure out the best way to protect themselves while doing what is basically necessary for them to do.
Considering that they issue videos every week discussing officiating decisions, this is certainly not something that they can avoid altogether. Chances are they will have to address it today at some point—it may even get addressed by the time this article runs.
This was an error that was egregious enough and took place in a scenario that had a high enough profile that it could legitimately result in the league feeling pressure to address it within the rules during the offseason, as they did with the catch rule in 2018.
It would certainly be nice if we could ever just watch football games again without having to think about what is going on with the teams or in the league that are detracting from what is taking place on the field, but from our current point of view, it’s hard to see us ever returning to that point. Sports certainly don’t exist in a vacuum separate from society, but it’s getting ridiculous.