NFL commissioner Roger Goodell held his annual state of the league address Wednesday afternoon in Atlanta, and it took all of five questions to get to the elephant in the room.
Goodell admitted the officiating crew from the NFC championship game might have cost the Saints a trip to the Super Bowl when a pass interference no-call helped the Rams secure an eventual overtime win, but also stressed the “human” aspect of the game.
“I’ve talked to coach [Sean] Payton, the team, the players. We understand the frustration that they feel right now,” Goodell said. “Whenever the officiating is part of any kind of discussion post-game, it’s never a good outcome for us.
“But we also know our officials are human. We also know that they are officiating a game that moves very quickly and have to make snap decisions under difficult circumstances. And they’re not going to get it right everytime. As I say, they’re human.”
Goodell fielded further questions about the no-call and what could be done to prevent another controversial incident from occurring, adding that replays and the addition of another referee are options being considered for implementation.
“We have worked very hard to bring technology in to try make sure we can do whatever is possible to address these issues. But technology is not going to solve all those issues,” Goodell said, adding that he “absolutely did not” consider using his executive power to modify the outcome of the conference championship.
The no-call in question happened with the score tied at 20 and the ball in the red zone late in the fourth quarter. Drew Brees threw to wide receiver Tommylee Lewis on third and 10, but Lewis was knocked down by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman well before the pass arrived.
A pass interference call would have given the Saints a first down and allowed them to run out the clock before attempting the potential game-winning field goal. Instead, they kicked a field goal and the Rams answered with one of their own to force extra time. Los Angeles went on to win 26-23 in overtime.
The Rams and Patriots will kick off Super Bowl 53 at 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday.