Gerald Herbert/Associated Press
Digest’s quick takes on the stories from Sunday that everyone will be talking about:
The Blown Call
Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman said he was just trying to whack Tommylee Lewis to prevent an easy touchdown in the fourth quarter. He expected a flag. He said the officials told him that the ball was tipped, which is why he wasn’t flagged for obvious pass interference.
The only person on earth who saw a tipped pass was the official who told Robey-Coleman that.
The blown call forced the Saints to settle for a field goal with 1:45 to play. A fresh set of downs would have allowed them to burn the clock to ice the game.
But let’s not forget the sequence that led up to the blown call: an incomplete pass on a shaky throw by Drew Brees (saving a Rams timeout), a burned timeout by the Saints and a pitch play to Alvin Kamara that netted zero yards.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron admitted to Saints head coach Sean Payton that it was a blown call. It was both terrible and game-altering. But with better clock management, the Saints still could won the game.
On the one hand, the fourth quarter of the Patriots-Chiefs game was NFL spectacle at its best: four lead changes and lots of miraculous plays by a pair of great quarterbacks, all culminating in a sudden-death encore and some patented Tom Brady magic.
On the other hand, it was also a swirling vortex of inexplicable calls and endless replay reviews in which the officiating both upstaged the game and had too much of an influence on the outcome.
Julian Edelman either muffed a punt or watched the ball bounce in an exact outline of his body. There were multiple “what’s a catch?” plays. Worst of all, Chris Jones was called for roughing the passer because he thumped Tom Brady’s shoulder pad.
The calls and no-calls may have evened out at the end—an offensive pass interference on a pick play to set up a Chiefs touchdown was almost as bad as the Tapping a Brady call—but the myriad calls slowed the game down and made it feel like the referees, not Brady and Mahomes, had ultimate control over the flow.
It would be a major problem if everything that happened on the field—including the bad stuff—didn’t somehow keep making the NFL even more popular.
The incredible disappearing Gurley
Todd Gurley had a bad game: two early carries that went nowhere, two dropped passes (one tipped into a defender’s hands), a blown block in pass protection. Then he disappeared for almost the entire second half, with C.J. Anderson getting the bulk of carries.
Anderson is pretty darned good, and Gurley admitted after the game that he deserved a little time on the sideline. But Anderson was stopped short on a goal-line carry he got in place of a back with 40 regular-season touchdowns in the last two years, forcing the Rams to settle for a short field goal. Anderson took a handoff on 3rd-and-15. It’s hard to believe that this was the best use of the Rams’ manpower.
Maybe Sean McVay was in Galaxy Brain-mode with his short field goals and benchings. He’ll learn in two weeks whether he can outsmart the best ever, or just himself.
The whistle blower
His calls himself Whistle Man. He has been attending Saints games, dressed as a human whistle, bleating his high-pitched squeal to pump up the Saints (and distract their opponents) for years. Not only did he nearly win the game for the Saints on Sunday—Jared Goff looked ready to jam icepicks in his ears and played the second half with his earholes taped up—but he made half of America want to shut off our surround sound.
Connor Orr of The MMQB tracked down Whistle Man during the game for a brief serenade. But Digest went one step further: We spoke to his mother.
Digest: Where did you watch the Saints-Rams game?
Whistler’s mother: At home in my wooden chair, with my black dress and bonnet on, next to the curtains and the little painting on my wall.
Digest: Did your son always whistle like that?
Whistler’s mother: Always. The dour couple next door used to get mad and stand outside their house holding a pitchfork when he got too loud.
Digest: What do you have to say about your son’s newfound fame?
Whistler’s mother: Like I always told that young man who wears bright blue everywhere, “They only hate you ‘cuz they ain’t you.” WE WERE ROBBED! WHO DAT?