Accountability concerns in NFL officiating rears its ugly head again

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Wil Lutz
The big story Monday night was Wil Lutz’s game-winning 58-yard field goal to lift the Saints past the Texans but it was far from the only NFL storyline of note (Photo: Parker Waters).

NEW ORLEANS – It nearly happened again.

In the first game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome since the infamous “NOLA No-Call,” another blown call by an NFL officiating crew nearly cost the New Orleans Saints a game.

Granted, it was not as significant as the NFC championship game and a spot in the Super Bowl but it was very significant.

Houston is a good football team. The Saints face a brutal early schedule. Winning was critical for New Orleans in its quest to be a Super Bowl contender in 2019.

The Saints won. The officials lost again.

Prior to halftime, the people with striped shirts on the field infuriated the thousands with striped shirts in the stands with another mind-boggling, inept call.

Michael Thomas made a great catch of a pass from Drew Brees. He was marked just short of the first down.

The replay executive buzzed down to the field to review the play. Did Thomas catch it? Certainly. Did he make the first down? Definitely.

Start there.

Referee John Hussey’s crewy missed the mark with their mark.

The fact that they stopped play prevented the Saints from continuing their two-minute drill. Consider also that New Orleans still had a timeout remaining.

Then, the officiating crew compounded a mistake with another mistake.

It was hard to understand and even harder to fathom how they could have screwed it up so badly.

The officials somehow arrived at the conclusion that there should be 26 seconds on the clock. It was an incomprehensible gaffe. What else is new?

Here is the text of an explanation from Larry Holder of The Athletic, who served as the Pool Reporter for the game with Al Riveron, the Senior Vice President of Officiating for the NFL:

Larry Holder: Can we get clarification of what happened at the end of the first half following a Drew
Brees completion to Michael Thomas?

Al Riveron: The play ended at 41 seconds when we ruled him down. Then we stopped the game for
a replay review. After we did our administrative duties, we should have reset the clock to 41 seconds
because that’s when we blew the play dead. At that time, we should have gone to Coach Payton and
asked him if he wanted to take a timeout in lieu of a 10-second runoff. Instead of setting the clock to
41, we inadvertently set it to 26 and then had a 10-second runoff because he did not want to take the timeout. Again, we should have reset it to 41, not 26, and then ultimately to 31 after the 10-second runoff.

As I have stated on several occasions, I have a lot of respect for those who officiate sports contests. It is a tough, thankless job.

Everyone wants to blame the officials.

Most of the time, that blame is misplaced, ill-advised, an excuse for losing.

On occasions, the blame is real.

What happened to the officiating crew and, specifically, the three officials who missed the call against Tommylee Lewis a year ago?

If anything did, we certainly have not heard a peep about it.

What happens when players and coaches commit offenses?

They get fined. They get suspended. You hear about it.

Where is the accountability?

The bonehead decision prior to halftime last night could have cost the Saints the game.

Given an additional 15 seconds, Drew Brees has one, if not two more plays to get Wil Lutz closer. He had the distance on his 56-yard field goal attempt but it was wide left.

Inside of 50 yards, Lutz is money.

If the Saints have those three points prior to halftime, are we even having a conversation about a colossal defensive collapse, followed by a brilliant offensive rally in the final seconds?

Of course, there is a difference between what happened against the Rams and what happened against the Texans.

New Orleans still had a chance to beat the Rams, getting the ball first in overtime. They turned it over and lost.

The Saints still had a chance to beat the Texans, getting the ball with 37 seconds left and one timeout. They drove it masterfully and got a great kick from Lutz.

Still, it is inexcusable for officials at the highest level to miss miserably on administrating the game. One wonders why someone in New York did not buzz down to let the crew know that they were wrong with their time calculation?

There is a serious lack of trust between the New Orleans Saints fan base and the NFL and its officiating.

What will happen to Hussey’s crew? Maybe they get a demerit. Maybe they do not get to call a conference championship game. Try not to shed a tear.

The one other call that fans were upset about was the roughing the kicker call on C.J. Gardner-Johnson when Ka’imi Fairbairn missed the initial extra point attempt following the game-tying touchdown pass from Deshaun Watson to former Saint Kenny Stills.

The call was correct. Gardner-Johnson, a rookie who earlier was dancing on the sideline, did contact Fairbairn, who carried out the act perfectly to sell it. I like Gardner-Johnson. He has a good future but he might want to save the dance moves for when a game’s outcome is clearly decided or for the post-game.

I fully support fans and their passion. Hopefully, the whole wearing striped shirts to the game will subside. The Saints organization would much prefer that fans wear black and gold to the game.

Given the events of Monday night, I would bet that the striped shirt saga continues, at least to a lesser degree, when the Cowboys arrive here on Sept. 29.

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

Owner/CEO

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…

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