NFC Championship Game Revives Discussion of a Penalty Review System

Carson Caulfield- Sports Writer

The Los Angeles Rams’ 26-23 victory over the New Orleans Saints catapulted the franchise to Superbowl LIII. The game was won by a beautiful 57 yard overtime field goal by Greg Zuerlein. However, viewers have muted the discussion of Zuerlein”s “Mega-leg,” and have turned their attention to an outrage over the officiation on one specific play.

With 1:41 left remaining in the game, quarterback Drew Brees led the Saints down to the 13 yard line. On 3rd and 10, Brees threw a perfectly placed pass to TommyLee Lewis near the sideline. Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, in an attempt to break up the pass, aggressively threw himself into Lewis. Video clearly showed that he hit Lewis before the pass reached him, thus a pass interference penalty should have been called. Robey-Coleman even admitted after the game that a flag should have been thrown, but Saints fans should “respect the call.”

“I can’t help the fact, and I can’t stop the fact, that the wrong team is going to the Superbowl.” Said Fox Sports analyst Skip Bayless. “(Nickell Robey-Coleman) decided that he was so beaten, that ‘I’m just going to foul him. I’m going to run him over.’ And he admitted it after the game.”

This officiating blunder has, once again, raised an important question: should the NFL extend their replay policies to include a review of penalties?

On one side of the argument, allowing penalty video review would be an unrealistic addition to the game. Penalties are such a frequent component of the game that allowing penalty reviews would slow down the game exponentially. Also, many question what kind of penalties would warrant a review. Is the NFL going to start reviewing penalties as minor as false start and encroachment?

On the other side of the argument, many say that penalty reviews would be a great addition to the game. With the video technology already in existence, many fans already consider officials as useless. Some fans and analysts have brought up the possibility of a coach’s penalty challenge flag, which would limit the amount of penalties reviewed. There is simply too much video technology to place our entire trust in the eyes of a few referees.

All in all, the pass interference fiasco in New Orleans points to one conclusion: the NFL must do better. Whether that means a penalty challenge system, more officials, or something unheard of. Referees are humans too, and like all of us, their judgement is not always correct. But that does not mean that a missed call should be left as such. As for New Orleans, Super Bowl 53 was a hard one to watch but hopefully, their loss will turn into a sacrifice for a more precise officiating system.