Controversy Dampens Exciting Conference Championship Weekend

One sports pet peeve of mine is when something controversial happens in a game, especially a playoff game. The reason: when something controversial happens, we as fans focus strictly on that one moment, rather than the entirety of what was a great game. The ending to Sunday’s NFC Title game between the Rams and Saints certainly created sparks among the fans. Thanks to a blown pass interference call, as well overcoming an early 13-0 hole, the Rams were able to sneak out of the Superdome, winning 26-23 in overtime. On the AFC side, the Patriots continued their terror over the AFC in another overtime thriller, 37-31.

While the NFL is under deserved scrutiny for the pass interference no-call, I do tip my hat to Bill Vinovich’s crew. They did not throw the flags much, only calling 10 penalties, which lead to a great flow of the game on both sides. There is no denying the Saints were screwed on a critical play, but the refs did not help the Saints cough up a 13-0 lead at home. The refs did not turn Sean Payton into Bill O’Brien in the red zone, getting conservative and electing to settle for two field goals, at a time when the Rams appeared overwhelmed by the crowd noise. So yes, the no-call was huge, and the Saints were hosed on the play, but there were other circumstances throughout the game which lead to the Rams’ victory.

While the AFC championship didn’t have as many fireworks regarding officiating, the Patriots just keep finding ways to keep winning. Led by Belichick, who is a pure genius and put together a flawless game plan, to which his team was able to execute. New England played keep-away from Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense, as the Patriots owned the football for 43:59 of the game, compared to the Chiefs’ 20:53. A big reason the Patriots were able to hog the football was the poor play of the Chiefs’ defense.

Outside of forcing two turnovers, the Chiefs really could not get the key stop when they needed it. The big back-breaker was Dee Ford lining up offsides, negating what would have been Brady’s third interception of the night and would have sealed a 28-24 lead. Instead the Patriots got a second life. As always if you give the Patriots any second chances, they make you pay, and Brady sent the game into overtime.

In the overtime session, the Patriots won the coin toss, which the whole world knew would give them the win. With the Patriots winning the game in the blink of an eye, it is time the NFL considers changing the overtime rule. I have been an advocate for this change since Tim Tebow’s game-winning touchdown, which eliminated the Steelers back in the 2011-12 season. There is really no reason not to give both teams one possession, followed by sudden death if the score is then tied. The Chiefs defense should have stopped Brady, but in a game where two teams’ seasons are on the line and a trip to the Super Bowl is at stake, having the game essentially decided by a coin flip is a bit of a bad look on the league’s part.

Final Word

The NFL, like other leagues, is not perfect, and mistakes will be made. Sadly, the league’s big mistake Sunday quite possibly altered the result of a conference championship game. Whether the solution is to implement officiating training or even new technology, the league needs to exhaust every step possible, not only to improve itself, but also to ensure that what transpired at the end in New Orleans does not happen again.

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