The NFL has admitted in a document filed in court that an officiating mistake was made in the NFC championship game.
On Sunday, the league responded to a lawsuit filed by New Orleans Saints fans seeking NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to use his powers to order the end of the game to be replayed. The league’s filing in U.S. District Court in the Eastern Division of Louisiana, while acknowledging “ticketholders and fans’ disappointment and even anger over the outcome of last week’s game is entirely understandable,” seeks to have the suit dismissed.
“And, because the officials on the field are humans, like the players and coaches, errors will happen,” the document said.
“The NFL parties do not dispute that they have previously advised the Saints, including the club’s head coach, that one or more penalties for pass interference or illegal helmet-to-helmet contact were mistakenly not called late in the NFC Championship Game, and that the NFL would like its officials on the field to make these calls. This was acknowledged immediately after the game to the coach of the New Orleans Saints by NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron.”
The NFL still has not issued a public statement on the matter, more than a week after the Jan. 20 game between the Saints and the Los Angeles Rams.
The documents also state that a court cannot order Goodell to take action, in the league’s opinion.
“The Commissioner’s discretion under NFL Rule 17 to take ‘corrective measures,’ even to direct the re-playing of all or a portion of a game, is just that — discretion — and not a mandate or a ministerial act a Court can require him to undertake.”
The play in question happened with less than two minutes left in the game. On a third-and-10 play from the Rams’ 13-yard-line, Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw a pass intended for Tommylee Lewis, and it appeared that the Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman interfered with the play.
Instead of gaining a first down and a chance to score a touchdown, the Saints were forced to kick a field goal, giving them a 23-20 lead. The Rams had enough time on the clock to kick a field goal of their own to send the game to overtime.
The Rams won 26-23 and will meet the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday in Atlanta.
—Field Level Media