Everyone knows that the officials blew a key non-call late in the NFC title game. The teams knows it. The players know it. The officials know it. The league knows it, and a league employee has said so.
But the league has reversed course on its plan to formally admit it, for now.
Per a league source, the NFL has decided to refrain, at least for tonight, from issuing a statement admitting that Bill Vinovich’s crew failed to call pass interference against Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman, who hit Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis prematurely on a key third down play with less than two minutes to play in regulation.
The Saints should have had the ball with a fresh set of downs, along with the ability to take a couple of knees, bleed the clock, and kick a chip-shot field goal to advance to Super Bowl LIII. Instead, the Saints had to kick the field goal with enough time left for the Rams to tie the game — and then for the Rams to win it in overtime.
Apparently, the powers-that-be are haggling over the language of the statement that would admit the mistake. The haggling will continue into Monday, at a minimum.
If the league hopes to retain any credibility whatsoever, it will acknowledge the mistake ASAP and commit to making changes aimed at preventing such mistakes in the future. As the clock ticks, it will only get harder for the league to clean up a mess that its own substandard procedures for spotting and fixing obvious errors has created.