Not-So-Super Bowl: Saints out of playoffs after controversial call

Grant Barnes, Copy Editor

This past weekend’s American Football Conference and National Football Conference Championships set the stage for Super Bowl 53 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. In a mere two weeks, we will see the Los Angeles Rams face off against the New England Patriots for a chance to hoist the coveted Lombardi Trophy.

This matchup can potentially flip the status quo in the NFL: New England quarterback Tom Brady’s seemingly ageless performance, unmatched playoff experience and continual league dominance will be challenged by a feisty Rams team led by third-year quarterback Jared Goff. Goff is backed by the league’s second-ranked offense and truly frightening defensive line led by five-time Pro-Bowler Aaron Donald.

Such an influential game was prefaced by intense drama in the NFC and AFC Championships. Both came down to the wire and were decided in overtimes that were nothing short of emotional rollercoasters.

This year’s NFC Championship featured the Rams against New Orleans’ beloved Saints. Though the Saints got out to a hot start in the game, the Rams were able to counter with a second quarter offensive burst. The teams held even until the fourth, when the drama unveiled.

Near the end of regulation, the teams were tied 20-20 as the Saints were driving downfield. With Los Angeles running out of timeouts and New Orleans well within field goal range, all the Saints had to do to seal a victory was get a first down and run down the clock for a last-second field goal. This did not occur.

Daisy Rymer | Sports Layout Editor

As New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees threw to receiver Tommylee Lewis, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman committed a seemingly obvious pass interference penalty with a helmet-to-helmet hit. Had this penalty been called, the Saints would have a first down within the Los Angeles five-yard line and could have run down the clock for a chip-shot, game-winning field goal.

No flag was thrown.

New Orleans was forced to take a deep field goal with enough time on the clock for the Rams to drive for a game-tying field goal of their own, sending the teams to overtime. Los Angeles prevailed in this extra period on Greg Zuerlein’s 57-yard field goal.

Following the game, NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron admitted to Saints coach Sean Payton that, regarding the missed pass interference penalty, “we messed it up.” Further, Robey-Coleman himself acknowledged that he believed he committed a penalty, saying, “I got away with one tonight.

Shortly after the NFC Championship concluded, the AFC Championship between the Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs commenced. Though New England jumped to a 14-0 lead over the Chiefs at halftime, Patrick Mahomes’ No. 1 ranked Kansas City offense roared to life in the fourth quarter, eventually tying the game on a last-second Harrison Butker field goal that sent the teams to the second overtime of the day.

Mahomes’ miraculous fourth-quarter play, however, was to no avail. On the first and only drive of overtime, Tom Brady led New England on a 75-yard touchdown campaign highlighted by three lengthy third down conversions. That touchdown punched New England’s ticket to Atlanta and left Chiefs fans baffled, their all-star offense unable to retaliate.

After all the drama, Super Bowl LIII will most certainly be worth the watch. Kickoff in Atlanta is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Central on Sunday, Feb. 3.

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