HOUSTON - Hundreds of thousands of people are calling for a replay of the New Orleans Saints-Los Angeles Rams NFC Championship game after a 26-23 Rams victory, an outcome that might not have been possible without an egregious mistake by the officials in the closing minutes of regulation.
New Orleans head coach Sean Payton said he talked to the NFL office after the game Sunday and was told that the Rams cornerback should have been flagged for pass interference on the Saints receiver.
"Not only was it interference, it was helmet to helmet," Payton said. "I don't know if there was ever a more obvious pass interference."
Terry Cassreino created a Change.org petition for a rematch.
Cassreino wrote: "Refs missed a blatant pass interference call against the Los Angeles Rams late in fourth quarter of Jan. 20 NFC Championship game, possibly costing New Orleans Saints a trip to the SuperBowl. Due to refs’ inability to properly officiate at the game, we the undersigned want a re-match against L.A. on Sunday, Jan. 27. It’s the only fair solution to this travesty of epic proportions."
The signature goal was 300,000 and as of early Monday afternoon, there were already more than 281,000 signatures.
Later Monday afternoon, the signature goal was increased to 500,000, and the page had more than 361,000 signatures.
So will Cassreino and hundreds of thousands of Saints fans get their wish? It is highly unlikely the NFL would take action to bring the teams back together to play the game over.
What happened on the call?
Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman committed a blatant interference penalty with a helmet-to-helmet hit on Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis well before the pass arrived inside the 5, forcing the Saints to settle for Wil Lutz's 31-yard field goal that made it 23-20 with 1:41 left in regulation.
After the no-call, Jared Goff had enough time to lead the Rams down the field for Greg Zuerlein's tying field goal, a 48-yarder with 15 seconds remaining.
Zuerlein booted through the winning field goal from just inside midfield with plenty of room to spare. The NFL said it the longest game-winning kick in playoff history.
If the pass interference penalty had been called, the Saints could've run most of the time off the clock to set up a winning field goal from chip-shot range. A replay was shown over and over on the Superdome's giant video boards, prompting some fans to toss trash on the field.
"Being that it happened right there in front of the person who would be the one to make the call, and everyone in the stands saw it, everyone watching at home on TV saw it, that makes it even more difficult to take," Saints QB Drew Brees said. "Because of this, I'm sure there will be a lot of talk about reviewing penalties, perhaps game-changing penalties."
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