‘You can’t blame refs’ in Rams win over Saints claims Colin Cowherd

Call it both ways.

That’s the standard athletes and fans alike have been demanding from officials since sports began and it’s exactly what they got Sunday– or in this case, don’t call it both ways.

While the attention of the football world is focusing on the non-pass interference/ helmet-to-helmet penalty Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman got away with on a pass intended for Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis with under two minutes left in regulation, Colin Cowherd believes the most costly missed call of the game actually benefitted New Orleans.

No call heard around the world sends Rams to Super Bowl

“That one actually took points off the board. That would have been a first and goal for the Rams at the one and the refs whiffed it… Since when in pro football do you get bonus points for an egregious whiff?” Cowherd wondered on The Herd.

The no-call Cowherd is referencing also came late in the fourth quarter. With under seven minutes to play, Rams QB Jared Goff scrambled down to the Saints two yard line. During his run, Saints linebacker A.J. Klein clearly grabs his facemask, which should have resulted in a first and goal near the one yard line for the Rams. While nothing can be assumed, it’s likely the Rams could have punched the ball in to take a 24-20 lead, but instead they had to settle for a game-tying field goal.

“It’s called the recency bias. That last blown call, ‘that’s what lost it for us!'” Cowherd said to explain why fans are only focusing on the Robey-Coleman play. “Fans demand perfect officiating, but Sean Payton got out-coached late and Drew Brees got out-played late.”

To explain the argument Cowherd is making about Payton and Brees being out-matched, let’s take a look at key figures, beginning with the coaching decisions.

With 1:58 remaining in regulation– after the two-minute warning– the Rams only had two timeouts remaining. The Saints had the ball with a first and 10 at the LA 13. Instead of running the ball to force the Rams to either burn their second timeout or accept the fact the clock would run under 1:15, Payton elected to put the ball in Brees’ hands who threw an incomplete pass, stopping the clock.

On second down, after only three seconds came off the clock during the previous play, Alvin Kamara was stopped on a run for no gain. The Rams burned their second timeout. Payton seemed to have reverted back to conventional play calling.

Then came the infamous third down.

While yes, the pass should have resulted in a first down because of a penalty, the decision to throw the ball at all is an interesting decision. Despite the fact it was unlikely a run on 3rd and 10 would result in a first down, the Saints would have forced the Rams into using their final timeout before kicking the go-ahead field goal with 1:45 left. If Payton had run the ball on first and second down, depleting LA’s timeout supply before this play, the kick would have happened with just over a minute left.

“Sean, at that point in the game you’re not facing the Rams. You’re facing the clock,” Cowherd states.

But alas, the Saints took the three point lead and gave Jared Goff 1:41 and a timeout to march down the field. Turns out, he needed 1:22 and the timeout to get into field goal range when Greg Zuerlein eventually kicked the OT-forcing 48-yard field goal. That’s 22 seconds and a stoppage more than Payton could have left him.

However, Cowherd provides as further supporting evidence, that wasn’t the only missed opportunity the Saints had.

On each of the first two New Orleans possessions, the Saints had the ball inside the red zone– including one where they took over possession on the LA 16– and came away with only two field goals. Instead of blowing the doors open with a 14-0 lead merely eight minutes into the game, the Rams only trailed by six.

“You had multiple opportunities in that game, but you go ahead and you blame the refs… The better team won,” Cowherd said.

He also pointed to the overtime period itself– which followed both blown calls he discussed– in which the Saints squandered a golden opportunity.

After receiving the ball first, New Orleans could have won the game without even giving LA a chance if they scored a touchdown (something Tom Brady was able to do later in the day for the New England Patriots which is causing a lot of discussion about a need to change the OT rules). But Brees could not orchestrate such a drive. Instead, while attempting to throw a deep pass, he was hit and the ball was intercepted. That play ultimately set up Zuerlein’s 57-yard game-winner.

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“As I said Friday, the team peaking now and not in November would win this football game,” Cowherd reminded.

So, while this game may be remembered in 20 years as ‘the no-call game,’ at least the no-calls went both ways.