Dear Sean Payton:
Feel your pain, buddy, and am sorry for it.
That missed pass-interference call in Sunday’s NFC title game against the Los Angeles Rams … brutal. Just brutal.
It’s the kind of thing that can haunt you, your New Orleans Saints and the rest of Who Dat Nation for an eternity.
But that’s really not what is bothering you, is it?
When you get past the frustration, the pain, the “goddam, we had ’em” teeth-gritting, the reality is … you and your team blew the game, not the officials.
That’s the thing that is eating away at you.
Sure, it’s easy to point the finger at that one play, a third-and-10 pass attempt from Drew Brees to Tommylee Lewis blown up by Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman is almost cartoonish fashion, a pass interference so obvious that anyone could have called it – yet no official in this game did.
Game, set, match right there, huh, coach? Cost you the game, huh?
If only damn reality didn’t get in the way of such a good gripe.
For starters, the teams were tied 20-all at that point, with 1:48 remaining in regulation. If memory serves, Saints placekicker Will Lutz then drilled a 37-yard field goal to give the hosts a three-point cushion, right?
To me, and am sure you as well, coach, a championship squad shuts the door on the opposition right there and soon commences plans for its second Super Bowl trip in a decade.
Didn’t happen, though, did it?
Nope. Rams went right down the field and kicked the tying field goal.
No biggie, though. Overtime merely gave you, your MVP candidate and your team another opportunity to shine, and ultimately earn that berth to Atlanta.
What’s that … Brees threw a pick on the first possession in the extra frame? Geez, probably still decimated from what didn't get called minutes before, huh?
Well, certainly the defense picked him up, right? That's what title-winning teams do.
Alas, it didn’t. Gave up just enough yardage on the Rams’ ensuing series to pave the way for Greg Zuerlein’s game-winning 57-yard field goal.
Thing is, New Orleans blew this game long before that final kick. Even long before that laughably pathetic non-call.
Championship outfits don’t blow 13-0 first-quarter leads in the playoffs. At home. After they’ve posted a 13-3 mark in the regular season to earn that advantage.
They don’t get outgained 363 yards to 160 after that initial frame, either. With the opposing team’s most lethal weapon riding the bench most of the time.
They certainly don’t have their head coach go into brain-dead mode near the end of regulation and see him call a stupid pass play on first down at the opposing team’s 13-yard line with less than two minutes on the clock when the obvious call there is a run to force the other team to burn a timeout after making a tackle.
The pass, of course, was incomplete … and pretty much encapsulated the entire afternoon for the Saints.
Everything was right there for the taking, and they tossed it away.
Even after a horrible missed call.
When you get past all the bitching, the moaning and the rationalizing, that is what the real issue is.
A word to the wise: Just deal with it. The denial only delays the healing.
Signed, Your Conscience