Not only were the New Orleans Saints hosed by poor officiating, but the Kansas City Chiefs were too by archaic overtime rules. The NFL Playoffs 2019 have left us speechless, so now what?
There are no moral victories at this point in the NFL playoffs 2019. Patrick Mahomes may be a young starter, but he isn’t just glad to have gotten here. Drew Brees wants to make another run at it next season; of course he does. That doesn’t mean it will be easy to forget about Sunday. His coach even said they will never forget this game.
Two brothers from New York, Dan Salem and Todd Salem, debate NFL Playoffs 2019 in today’s NFL Sports Debate.
In the NFC Championship, a dramatic blown call in the final moments kept Los Angeles alive. From there, the Rams knocked in one field goal to force overtime and then another to win the game in the extra period. If such an obvious pass interference hadn’t been missed, New Orleans could have run the clock all the way down and kicked a Super-Bowl-invitation field goal as time expired. Los Angeles would not have gotten the ball again. Instead, the Saints are the ones going home.
But a common story line that ran through both games was the late-game execution and drives by offenses when they needed it most. Los Angeles did so. The AFC title teams were even more unstoppable when it mattered most.
There was not one, not two, not three, but four scoring drives in the final four minutes of the AFC Championship. The two teams combined for a record 38 points in the quarter. A 17-7 contest entering the fourth, the second title game of the afternoon was a bit of a dud at first. That was until the coaching and execution on the offensive side took over.
This game wasn’t without controversy, though. The referees unwittingly made themselves the story of both conference titles. In the AFC, there were a slew of questionable and highly argumentative calls that went to review. In some cases, the refs overturned calls without indisputable evidence. It seemed like the call was being correct, but it wasn’t indisputable.
Then other times, they leaned on the call on the field. The inconsistency with interpretation was frustrating to watch even without a rooting interest. No single play swung the tide like on the NFC side, and there were egregious calls that actually went in the Chiefs’ favor, but there were enough pieces to point to that Kansas City can certainly feel like they were robbed of a Super Bowl berth.
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Of course, Tom Brady and the Patriots are as peerless as they’ve ever been, ho-hum regular season be damned. The Chiefs couldn’t hope to contain them when it mattered most, including a 13-play drive in overtime to seal the victory and leave Mahomes on the sideline.
It takes a great deal away from these teams’ accomplishments when the referees are the story the next day. In fact, this was one of the best days for kickers in postseason history, and it will mostly be forgotten: a combined 9-for-9 on field goals and 12-for-12 on extra points, including five FGs that either gave a team a lead or tied the game in the fourth quarter or overtime.
Some people are demanding wider replay scope to account for missed penalties, but that ignores the fact that calls were perhaps made incorrect because of haggling over replay angles in the other contest. The sport would spiral into guessing and second-guessing around every play of consequence. I don’t have a solution. I don’t know if there is one. This may just be a season where refs had a larger impact than usual. Just don’t take away from what Brady, Greg Zuerlein and others did.
I have a solution to all of this mayhem. Fix the overtime rules once and for all. Referees always have a larger impact on games than fans and players wish to admit. They blow calls, make questionable ones, and are not immune to human error, no matter how good the replay system is. One team is always the beneficiary, while another receives the wedgie.
Despite the Saints getting hosed with a non-call, it did not end the game. I can’t tell you how many times pass interference has not been called, or called when it shouldn’t have been. That’s just part of football. It happens every game, multiple times. You can’t fix something that is inherently part of the game itself, so stop trying. It’s akin to balls and strikes in baseball. The beauty is in its imperfection.
What can and must be fixed are the idiotic overtime rules which do not put the ball in the hands of both offenses. Having a touchdown immediately end the game is ridiculous. Give the other team a chance to also score a touchdown, just like with a field goal. If they fail to reach the end zone, then the game is over. If they also score a touchdown and tie it, then the next score wins.
That is clean and simple. Keeping Kansas City on the sidelines during overtime because they lost a coin flip is just as egregious as the missed pass interference call. Games should not be decided by luck. This is the playoffs and both teams deserve a chance on offense in overtime.
If anyone chooses to let a coin flip or missed penalty ruin the fun of two incredible championship games, then shame on you. We were gifted the four best teams from the season in the AFC and NFC title games. The NFL Playoffs 2019 could not have asked for a better set of games to decide our Super Bowl matchup. Both games went to overtime.
Regulation was not enough for the best teams in the league. They were that evenly matched. Saints and Chiefs fans should be sad. Your teams lost in overtime. But you were not robbed. Defense wins championships and neither’s stopped the opposition when it mattered most.
I was saying all season that Kansas City’s defense would be its undoing. Technically I was both right and wrong. Their defense never held them back. But lack of defense allowed New England to beat them, as it did for Los Angeles over New Orleans. Defense wins championships, but it can also lose them. Credit to the offensive coordinators who made some brilliant play calls.
They paved the way for an epic Super Bowl between head coaches on opposite ends of the spectrum. The Dark Lord (Bill Belichick) will face the Young Jedi Master (Sean McVay) for Lombardi’s trophy.