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Advocate file photo of the infamous missed pass interference call during NFC Championship Game on Jan. 20, 2019.

Mike Pereira's phone wouldn't stop ringing Monday.

He knew it would be that way, though.

"Controversy brings me to the forefront," Pereira said.

Pereira, a former NFL official who also served as the league's vice president of officiating, currently is a rules analyst for Fox Sports.

He was in the broadcast booth at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday for the New Orleans Saints' NFC Championship game against the Los Angeles Rams, so he witnessed the controversial call — in this case, a no-call — that helped end the Saints' season.

The play in question came with less than two minutes in regulation on a pass from Drew Brees intended for receiver Tommylee Lewis. Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman clearly made contact with Lewis before the ball arrived, which should have led to a pass interference call.

"What I saw was what everyone else saw," Pereira said. "It was just a flat-out whiff on the officiating side."

Do you have any idea how they missed it?

"I don't," Pereira responded. "It's not like these are Tier 3 officials. These were the guys rated high enough to work the Super Bowl, and they just couldn't pull the trigger."

The Saints settled for a field goal on the next play, then went on to lose 26-23 in overtime, sending the Rams to the Super Bowl and leaving the Saints wondering what could have been.

The NFL didn't release a statement about the play, but Saints coach Sean Payton said he spoke after the game with league officials who admitted they made a mistake by not throwing a flag on the play.

The Saints had other chances, so it didn't have to come down to that one play. But that didn't help lessen the blow.

"I’m trying to stop crying, for real, like a baby," said Saints offensive lineman Terron Armstead. "Just thinking about everything in totality, just being so close to actually going to the Super Bowl. For somebody like me from a small town in Illinois, a small school, and I’m about to go to a Super Bowl? Man, that (expletive) is tough. It’s like heartbreaking."


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The play is a considered a judgment call and thus can't be reviewed during the game and corrected.

It should be.

And according to a report Monday, that day could be coming.

A high-ranking official of an NFL team confirmed to the Washington Post that a rules change to make pass interference reviewable will be considered for next season.

"It will be discussed at length along with additional fouls that coaches feel should be subject to review,” an anonymous source told the publication.

Payton is on the competition committee that helps bring proposed rules changes to the league.

"So hopefully that provides a voice," he said after the game. "Man, I hope no other team has to lose a game the way we lost that one."

Payton voiced his concerns about making pass interference a reviewable call in the past, long before Sunday's play. He's hoping Sunday's example pushes the league to move forward and make a change.

It wouldn't be the first time a Saints NFC Championship game sparked a rules change. In the 2009-10 season, the Saints beat the Minnesota Vikings in overtime, kicking a field goal on the first possession of overtime. Back then, the NFL played a true sudden-death overtime, where the first team to score won. But because of that game, the NFL changed the rule so that if a team scored on a field goal on the first drive, the opposing team would get a chance to score as well.

So perhaps this championship game will spark change, too.

The committee usually discusses possible rules changes in February and comes up with proposals for the league meetings in March. It takes a vote of three-fourths of the league's owners (24 of 32) to make changes.

Saints owner Gayle Benson would be one of the ones strongly in favor of seeing the rule changed to make pass interference calls reviewable.

Benson released a statement Monday in the aftermath of the controversial call.

"I have been in touch with the NFL regarding yesterday’s events and will aggressively pursue changes in NFL policies to ensure no team and fan base is ever put in a similar position again," her statement said. "It is a disservice to our coaches, players, employees and, most importantly, the fans who make our game possible. The NFL must always commit to providing the most basic of expectations — fairness and integrity."

Pereira said Payton's being on the committee should help.

"He'll be loaded for bear," Pereira said. "I would probably put less focus on that call (Sunday), because there is nothing we can do about it, but more look at how can we prevent it from happening again."

The technology, he said, is there to do so.

"Officiating is probably not any worse than it was 10 years ago, but technology is better," Pereira said. "Do we embrace it, even in plays that involve judgment? When you look at all the exposure officiating is getting, we should relook at the way we do things and involve technology more than in the past. Games may be longer because of it, but we can suck it up and say, 'That's OK, if we can get the call right.' "

Meanwhile, Saints players are trying to move on.

"You wake up this morning and you still can't believe it happened," said backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. "I know a lot of guys in this locker room had a hard time sleeping last night. Some of the coaches said they didn't get much sleep. When you can taste it and can't enjoy it the way you want to, it hurts."

And it will for a while.

"It still hasn't sunk in. It will probably never sink in," said linebacker Craig Robertson. "There are still unanswered questions about it. It's not my job. It's way above my pay grade. It is what it is, and there's nothing we can do about it but accept it and keep on rolling."

And hope there's a new rule in place by next season.


Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.