Saints coach Sean Payton didn't mince words about the "game-changing call" that wasn't made as the Saints drove late in the fourth-quarter of their NFC Championship loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
He said the NFL league office even called him to admit they blew the call.
"I don't know if there was ever a more obvious pass interference," he said in his post-game press conference.
The play in question occurred on third down as Drew Brees had unleashed a pass in the direction of receiver Tommylee Lewis. As the Saints receiver began to turn back toward the ball, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman lowered his shoulder into Lewis, knocking him clean off his feet.
No call was made. The Saints settled for a field goal to take a 23-20 lead, but left enough time for the Rams to drive for a tying field goal. They would win the game 26-23 on a 57-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein.
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“It was simple. They blew the call." Payton said of a call he had with the league office. “Not only that it was helmet-to-helmet.”
The Rams will move on to face the winner of the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots, facing off Sunday afternoon in the AFC Championship.
The ball was in the air, Tommylee Lewis was turning to catch it -- then he was taken out of the air by Nickell Robey-Coleman.
More quotes from Payton's press conference:
"Obviously it's a disappointing way to lose a game. It's frustrating. Just getting off the phone with the league office. They blew the call and ... man there were a lot of opportunities tough. That call puts in first and ten. We're on our knee three plays [and kicking a field goal] and it's a game-changing call. That's where it's at so it's disappointing. Credit the Rams. They made enough plays though. They won the game. The kicker made some big kicks. But for a call like that not to be made. Man, it's just hard to swallow and then to get a phone call. So what do you do? You get back up. You start going to work. This will be a tough one for these players, for the coaches. Again the Rams did a great job. It was a well-fought game, a hard fought game, but ... any questions?"
ON THE CALL FROM THE NFL LEAGUE OFFICE:
"We spoke initially. Then I called to follow up. First thing Al [Riveron] said when I got on the phone. They messed it up and .. but we went to these league meetings. We sit as an ownership group and we don't further evaluate the replay system. It's just too much at stake. Listen, it's a hard job for those guys because it's happening fast., but I don't know if there ever a more obvious pass interference call that, here it is in the NFC Championship game. Tough one to swallow."
ON EXPLANATION HE GOT ON FIELD:
The normal, 'hey, we talked, they arrived at the same time.' That kind of thing."
ON GETTING OVER THE SITUATION:
"It's tough to get over it. My problem with it was, I just don't know. If we were playing pick-up football in the backyard, the team that threw the foul ... I mean it was as obvious a call ... and how two guys can look at that and arrive with their decision. It happened though, so you can't dwell on it. We will probably never get over it. The truth is some of these losses like this [are impossible to get over.] One like that, it's too bad."
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome crowd, roaring at a deafening level all Sunday afternoon, all of a sudden went silent.
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