Bock’s Score: Not A Saintly Call

Welcome to the countdown to Super Bowl Week, the National Concussion League’s annual exercise in excess, where over-the-top hype leads up to what one day the League hopes will be declared a national holiday.

Oh, yes, the League hopes for a few other things like sky high television ratings, spectacular pregame and halftime shows and, if there is a football God watching over the event, no rulebook controversies.

Good luck with that.

Sadly, the League was unable to avoid that last item in the championship games, where the game officials missed the most obvious calls, resulting in the Rams and Patriots being in the Super Bowl instead of the Saints and the Chiefs.

First, we have the matter of pass interference committed with blatant disregard for a receiver’s health and welfare by Rams’ defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman. Beaten on a corner pattern deep in the shadow of the Rams’ end zone, Robey-Coleman resorted to a good, old fashioned Concussion League tactic — mayhem, leveling receiver Tommylee Lewis with a violent head-to-head collision. Then he looked for the flag that never showed up.

No problem. That play would certainly be reviewed. And “upon further review’’ it almost certainly would be penalized.

There was, however, one small problem. The Concussion League does not permit reviews on pass interference calls. The theory is penalties are subjective and should not be reviewable.

You can bet that will change because that non-call changed the nature of the Rams-Saints game. This has happened before. Ask ex-Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant to explain what is a catch and what isn’t. Three years after Bryant’s playoff non-catch, the league decided it really was a catch. A little late. Check out the Tuck Rule that saved Tom Brady from a crucial and obvious playoff  fumble when he pulled down what started to be a pass and hugged it like teddy bear.

The League tried to more clearly define a catch after the Bryant debacle and took down the Tuck Rule a couple of years ago. The Saints-Rams adventure almost certainly will trigger a review of what is reviewable.

Interference on that play would have given New Orleans a first down inside the five-yard line and the option to kill some time off the clock and maybe score a touchdown instead of being forced to settle for a field goal.  That left time for the Rams to respond and kick their own field goal to force overtime, during which they won the game.

The League apologized to Saints’ coach Sean Payton in a private phone call after the game and then moved on without any public statement on the fiasco. Sorry coach, tough luck. See you next season.

Next season, plays like that must be reviewable.

And while the League is considering rue changes, here’s another suggestion. When a game goes into overtime, both teams should get a chance on offense. Right now, it’s win the toss, score a touchdown and we all go home.

The Chiefs survived their share of blown calls and reached overtime against New England in their game. But KC never had a shot, not after the Patriots won the toss. Once Brady gets the ball in overtime, he does not give it back. Advantage Patriots.

All of this doesn’t matter now. Never mind the missed calls, the shoulda, woulda, coulda second guesses. This is the Super Bowl, a wall-to-wall party. And you know, America loves a party.



About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock is a contributor with NY Sports Day. He has covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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