Explaining NFL Rule 17, Section 2, Article 3: How Roger Goodell could theoretically intervene in Rams vs. Saints outcome

Explaining NFL Rule 17, Section 2, Article 3: How Roger Goodell could theoretically intervene in Rams vs. Saints outcome

Roger Goodell theoretically has the power to intervene in the controversial ending of the NFC championship game matchup between the Rams and Saints. While it is highly unlikely to be applied, there is a section of the NFL rulebook that allows the commissioner to take action after the occurrence of an “extraordinary act.”

The play in question happened with the score tied at 20 and the ball in the red zone late in the fourth quarter. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees threw the ball down the sideline to Tommylee Lewis on third-and-10. The wide receiver, however, was knocked down by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman and failed to catch the pass.

Robey-Coleman appeared to make contact with Lewis before the ball arrived, but the referees did not throw a flag. The Saints ended up kicking a field goal and the Rams answered with one of their own to force overtime. Los Angeles went on to win 26-23 in overtime.

Saints coach Sean Payton said he spoke with the league office after the game and was told “they blew the call.”

Goodell hypothetically has the authority to alter the game’s outcome because of two articles in the NFL rulebook. NBC Sports’ Mike Florio was the first to note the improbable scenario.

The first, Rule 17, Section 2, Article 1 says:

“The Commissioner has the sole authority to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary and/or corrective measures if any club action, non-participant interference, or calamity occurs in an NFL game which he deems so extraordinarily unfair or outside the accepted tactics encountered in professional football that such action has a major effect on the result of the game.”

There’s also Rule 17, Section 2, Article 3:

“The Commissioner’s powers under this Section 2 include the imposition of monetary fines and draft-choice forfeitures, suspension of persons involved in unfair acts, and, if appropriate, the reversal of a game’s result or the rescheduling of a game, either from the beginning or from the point at which the extraordinary act occurred.”

Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas seemed to advocate for the rule’s usage on Twitter a day after the game.

The Patriots will face the Rams in Super Bowl 53 on Sunday, Feb. 3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.