The government shutdown temporarily came to an end Friday afternoon, with President Trump and congressional leaders reaching a tentative deal to reopen the government for three weeks without funding for a wall on the Mexican border, pending further debate. But before that happened, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, took to the Senate floor to discuss another matter of grave importance to his constituents: The NFC championship game no-call that propelled the Los Angeles Rams into the Super Bowl at the expense of the New Orleans Saints.
His argument went on for nearly seven minutes. There were posters.
“The state of Louisiana is outraged because of what happened in the Superdome last Sunday. Televisions were broken. ... Fans filed lawsuits,” Cassidy said, prefacing his remarks with a promise to introduce bills next week to help unpaid federal workers and find a way to fund Trump’s proposed wall.
“What happened in my belief, and the belief of many, was the most blatant and consequential blown call in NFL history.”
If you recall, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman appeared to interfere with Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis on a third-down play late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. Had pass interference or a helmet-to-helmet hit been called, the Saints would have been set up nicely to drain the clock before kicking a potentially game-winning field goal. Instead, New Orleans kicked a field goal with 1 minute 41 seconds left to take a 23-20 lead, leaving the Rams plenty of time to tie the score with 15 seconds left and force overtime, where they would win the game.
This obviously did not sit well with Cassidy or pretty much anyone else from his neck of the woods. He thus questioned how the officials were selected for the game (it’s not a secret), asked how the officials in question — side judge Gary Cavaletto and down judge Patrick Turner were closest to the play — were graded for the game and demanded that the NFL answer questions about the call, which it has yet to do.
Cavaletto hails from Goleta, Calif., just up the Pacific coast from Los Angeles. Cassidy also said he wanted to know if he “was a die-hard Rams fan.”
"Every drunk sitting on a stool in every bar throughout the nation looked up at that TV and said, ‘There’s interference,’ " Cassidy said.
He isn’t the only one demanding answers. Saints tight end Benjamin Watson posted a stern message on social media this week directed at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, acknowledging that football “is an imperfect game, played, coached and officiated by imperfect people.” But Sunday’s result, Watson argued, “was outside of that expected and accepted norm. Your continued silence on this matter is unbecoming of the position you hold, detrimental to the integrity of the game and disrespectful and dismissive to football fans everywhere.”
In related news, ESPN’s Adam Schefter and NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero both reported Friday that the NFL fined Robey-Coleman $26,739 for his uncalled helmet-to-helmet hit on Lewis. The league has yet to acknowledge that the officials in question missed what appeared to be a blatant pass-interference penalty, though Saints Coach Sean Payton said after Sunday’s game that Al Riveron, the NFL’s director of officiating, told him that a flag should have been thrown.
This story and headline have been updated.