- Gayle Benson speaks out against officials in statement
- Owner will ‘aggressively pursue changes in NFL policies’
- NFC Championship Game: Saints lose to Rams in overtime
A day after her New Orleans Saints lost the NFC Championship Game to the LA Rams after a late missed call by the officials, team owner Gayle Benson issued a strong statement of disapproval.
“I am thoroughly disappointed by the events that led to the outcome of yesterday’s game,” Benson said. “Getting to the Super Bowl is incredibly difficult to do and takes such an unbelievable commitment from a team and support from its fans.”
“No team should ever be denied the opportunity to reach the title game – or simply win a game – based on the actions, or inactions, of those charged with creating a fair and equitable playing field. As is clear to all who watched the game, it is undeniable that our team and fans were unfairly deprived of that opportunity.”
Officials had declined to throw a flag in the closing stages of Sunday’s game, after Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman had clearly hit Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis before the ball arrived on a third-and-10 pass.
Had a penalty been called, the Saints would have been able to run the clock down before kicking a field goal as time expired, which would have won the game. Instead, they were forced to kick a field goal with 1:41 remaining. The Rams were able to tie and force overtime, where Greg Zuerlein’s 57-yard field goal sent them to the Super Bowl.
“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,” Benson’s statement added.
“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.”
The Saints head coach, Sean Payton, told reporters after the game he spoke with Alberto Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, who confirmed the incorrect non-call.
Robey-Coleman admitted afterward he made contact before Lewis had a chance to catch the pass. “Yes, I got there too early,” he said. “I was beat, and I was trying to save the touchdown.”
Referee Bill Vinovich briefly addressed the play during a postgame interview with a pool reporter. “It was a judgment call by the covering official,” Vinovich said. “I personally have not seen the play … it is not a reviewable play.”
The Washington Post reported Monday that the NFL will consider making pass interference a reviewable play this offseason. To implement any rule change, at least three-quarters of the 32 owners must vote to approve it.