A US senator wants the NFL to answer questions over “the most blatant and consequential blown call in NFL history” – and questioned the allegiance of the official behind it.

New Orleans Saints effectively missed a place in the Super Bowl because of the non-call against the Los Angeles Rams in the National Conference final.

In a speech to the Senate, Bill Cassidy asked whether the official was “a die-hard Rams fan”.

The NFL is yet to comment on the issue.

What happened in the game?

The Louisana politician’s Senate speech came after official Gary Cavaletto did not throw his flag after what appeared to be a clear pass interference by Rams player Nickell Robey-Coleman.

Saints were going for a touchdown with the scores level at 20-20 when the offence was missed.

It meant they had to go for a field goal – and left enough time for the Rams to get back into the game, which they did through Greg Zuerlein’s field goal to level the scores and take the match into overtime.

Zuerlein then kicked the winning 57-yard field goal for the Rams in overtime.

What did the senator say?

“The state of Louisiana is outraged because of what happened in the Superdome last Sunday,” Cassidy said.

“Saints fans would like to have an accountability for the referees.

“People look into conflicts of interest. It has been pointed out that the referee who missed the call lives in Los Angeles.

“There is still no official statement from the NFL. Perhaps they could answer some of these questions.”

What happened after the game?

Robey-Coleman has since been fined $26,739 (£20,255) by the NFL after his helmet-to-helmet contact on Tommylee Lewis. He appeared to make no attempt to intercept the pass from Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

After the game, NFL officials told Saints coach Sean Payton the call had been botched and Robey-Coleman admitted he should have been whistled for pass interference.

Lawsuits from angry Saints fans have been filed and billboards have been raised near the Super Bowl stadium by an unhappy New Orleans businessman bearing the message: “Saints Got Robbed”.

“It really is a taint upon the Super Bowl,” Cassidy added.

Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana member of the US House of Representatives, has called for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to “answer some questions about the unfair call”.

“The Saints should be on their way to Atlanta to play in the Super Bowl,” Richmond said.

“Instead, they are left with the memory of officials who failed to create an equal playing field and deprived them of that opportunity.”

Retiring Watson hits out at Goodell

New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson, who is retiring after 14 seasons in the NFL, has also criticised Goodell in a lengthy post on social media.

“Commissioner Goodell. We all realise that football is an imperfect game, played, coached and officiated by imperfect people. What occurred last Sunday in New Orleans, though, was outside of that expected and accepted norm,” Watson wrote.

“Your continued silence on this matter is unbecoming of the position you hold, detrimental to the integrity of the game and disrespectful and dismissive to football fans everywhere.

“From the locker room to Park Ave [in New York where the NFL office is located], accountability is what makes our league great. Lead by example. We are waiting.”

The Rams play the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in Atlanta on Sunday, 3 Feb.

 

 

SOURCE: BBC Sport