By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Sometimes, officiating in the NFL is extremely difficult to do. Other times, it’s quite easy.

A play late in the fourth quarter on Sunday afternoon in New Orleans would be filed under the latter category, but the officials on the field nevertheless made a ghastly error in one of the biggest spots imaginable.

The situation: The Saints called a pass play on a third-and-10 at the Rams’ 13-yard line with 1:49 left in the fourth quarter of a tie game. Drew Brees threw a pass toward Tommylee Lewis up the right sideline. Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman delivered a big hit on Lewis, long before the ball arrived, knocking the running back to the ground.

It was an obvious case of pass interference, and had it been enforced, it would have given the Saints a new set of downs and would have given them the opportunity to likely run the clock down before kicking the game-winning field goal in the final seconds.

Instead, the Saints had to kick their field goal with 1:45 left in the game. The Rams answered with a 45-yard drive and a field goal to tie the game and send it to overtime.

The reaction to the call was universal: the officials missed a big one.

The referee for Sunday’s game was Bill Vinovich. The rest of the crew included umpire Bruce Stritesky, down judge Patrick Turner, line judge Rusty Baynes, field judge Tom Hill, side judge Gary Cavaletto, and back judge Todd Prukop.

Considering the Rams eventually won in overtime, it was a non-call that can be described as one that cost the Saints a trip to the Super Bowl. For the NFL, it was as bad as it possibly could have been.

After the game, Saints head coach Sean Payton said that the league admitted to him that it was a blown call.

Vinovich spoke to a pool reporter after the game. He offered no explanation for the non-call, saying it was a judgment call and that he had not seen it himself.

Folks in New Orleans will be lamenting that one for a very, very long time.

Comments (13)
  1. Worst call ever, how can you watch a game with no integrity! Shameful! Godell should lose his job over that snafu!

    1. Sherry Gerald says:

      Won’t be watching the NFL any more, I’m done. Kansas City might just have a hard time winning their game, since their viewing audience is smaller than the population heavy northeast.

  2. Carl Horowitz says:

    Beyond belief. To add insult to injury, the Rams’ defender made a helmet-to-helmet hit. Even if the hit was properly timed, in other words, this still would have been a personal foul giving the Saints an automatic first down.

  3. Rob Centros says:

    What’s the point of instant replay if something this bad can’t be fixed? Apparently the NFL doesn’t want certain bad calls fixed. Looks like the Rams spent a lot of money on players AND NFL refs. What a pathetic joke. No wonder people are leaving the NFL in droves.

  4. Sherry Peterson says:

    what’s the point in watching NFL?

  5. Lauren Herold says:

    I can’t enjoy this game anymore. Errors like this are being made weekly and now a team is missing their fair shot at the Superbowl. There are people upstairs that have the abiity to review and SHOULD over- rule the officials who blow calls like this- Fix the problem! Dont ignore it by sending a team to the bowl that doesnt deserve to go- just FIX the problem fairly. Instead, you make a phone call admitting error x2? What did that phone call do for the players, fans and for the city of New Orleans? Done and out.

  6. Ed Bush says:

    Launching is reviewable and can result in fine and game suspension. Do the right thing NFL.

  7. Richard Longfellow says:

    The Rams played a good game but that non call cost the saints heavly. While anything can happen, the odds are the saints would have handed the ball off 3 times and kicked a short field goal if they did not score a TD. The Rams would have been left with about 20s. Yes the Saints had multiple chances to put the Rams out of the game, but in the end that was an obvious HUGEEEEEE non call that was obvious. Sorry, the Rams do not deserve to moving on. The NFL admitted the obvious missed call and even the CB for the Rams admitted it should have been called.

  8. horrible officiating I’m not a fan of either team – just want a fair game. 100 million people saw that penalty but no one in a striped shirt? Why play the game if we ignore the rules. The Saints were robbed and it cost them the game. This is bad for the NFL.

  9. Robert McShae says:

    If Brady and the Pats have any character at all, they would refuse to play the illegitimate rams and agree only to play the Saints in the super bowl. If not, no one but fans of the Pats and rams will ever recognize the validity of this year’s so-called “super bowl.”

  10. Nick Constantinou says:

    This is why penalties should be reviewed. Referees aren’t perfect. I get that. No matter how hard the league tries, controversial calls will always be part of the game. But this one painfully obvious. Even Robey-Coleman later admitted that he had committed a penalty. The league admitted after the game that this was a penalty. What “judgment call” could this have been? As great as they may be, the Rams don’t deserve to win the Super Bowl this year. Go Pats!!

  11. PineCrest RV Park says:

    Epic Super Bowl Lost
    Brees vs Brady
    Goat vs Goat
    Payton vs Belichick

    WILL NEVER HAPPEN

  12. Ann Eldridge says:

    Who has Authority over those NFL umpires? They should lose their Jobs!!!

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