NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -I didn’t think I could see a more dejected locker room after a postseason loss than in Minnesota after the ‘Minnesota Miracle’ last year.
I was wrong.
Sunday changed all of that. Inside this locker room, Mark Ingram fought back tears, Michael Thomas struggled to find the right words to say, while DeMario Davis lips were moving but he had the look of a player that had no answers after Sunday’s gut-wrenching 26-23 overtime loss to the Rams.
It’s not just because of the heartbreak but because of the circumstances.
The Saints were at home. They earned the top seed. The crowd was jacked. The Rams were rattled. The Saints were better. They truly outplayed their opponent.
Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way now. Like every game there were opportunities they let slip away. Yes, the Saints could have put the game away early. Yes, they could’ve played better in overtime. And yes, they should not have called a pass to Michael Thomas two plays before the ‘no call.’
But even with all that, this was a game the Saints deserved to win.
Then came third and ten with 1:48 left in the fourth quarter and everything unraveled.
By now, everyone knows the circumstances. Drew Brees throws a pass to TommyLee Lewis, Nickell Roby Coleman clearly collides with him before the ball gets but no flag was thrown.
The NFL is generally not in the business of admitting officials' mistakes unless they’re obvious. But when they do, it’s surely not minutes after a game with phone call to the losing head coach.
“I’m just getting off the phone with the league office,” Sean Payton explained in his postgame press conference. “They blew the call."
That’s how egregious it was. There was no thorough review of the play in question. This wasn’t a call that required a super slow motion video breakdown because it could not be seen with the naked eye. No, this one was obvious. The league knew it instantly. Even Roby-Coleman admitted he committed the infraction.
Who knows what will comes of this from a leaguewide perspective? Maybe it will lead to a review change for certain penalties. Maybe the guilty official will get reprimanded.
But in the end, it won’t matter. What matters is what was lost. This special season full of locker room dancing, turnover photographs, Choppa style and just all around fun is over. Regardless of good the Saints will be in the future, there’s no guarantee when they’ll be back. So many things have to go right for a team to get this far.
The Saints have had several good teams since 2009. Still, it took nine years for them to get back to the NFC Championship game.
So now it’s off to another off-season for the Saints, one game short of the ultimate prize. But this year, they’ll do so knowing that they were the ones that truly deserved to be there.