A week from Sunday, the New England Patriots should be playing the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl LIII. Instead, they are facing the Los Angeles Rams.
The Rams played the Saints in the NFC Championship and won on an overtime field goal by kicker Greg Zuerlein. It wouldn’t be the NFL without a bit of controversy, though.
With 1:48 left in the game, the Saints led 23–20 and looked poised to win. On third-and-long, Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw the ball toward wide receiver Tommylee Lewis, who was hit by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. Though it was clear that pass interference should have been called, the referees ruled it as an incomplete pass. The call resulted in the Rams tying the game on a field goal and winning in overtime.
The hit by Robey-Coleman was so clearly a foul that the NFL fined him $26,739 for a helmet-to-helmet hit. New Orleans, having lost in the playoffs last year to the Minnesota Vikings on a walk-off touchdown deemed the “Minnesota Miracle,” once again felt tragedy. However, unlike last year’s misfortunes, this year was robbery.
In a modern NFL with cameras everywhere, the ability to review every single angle, and millions of eyes watching, this missed call was unfathomable. Robey-Coleman did not turn around to look at the ball, made contact well before the ball was near the receiver, and hit the player with helmet-to-helmet contact. All three of these are perfectly reasonable ways to get called for a pass interference foul.
The Saints should have run out the clock with star running-back duo Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, sealing the victory. With that, the Saints would have traveled to Atlanta to face the Patriots in a battle between Tom Brady and Drew Brees, two future Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks.
In that hypothetical Super Bowl LIII, the two matchups to watch would be Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore attempting to cover Saints wideout Michael Thomas, and the whole Saints defense trying to stop Patriots running back James White.
The game would be tight, with both teams having success in spurts but never pulling fully away from the other. The final drive would be one to remember, as Drew Brees and the Saints would push the ball into field goal territory only for Saints kicker Will Lutz to miss the biggest kick of his career and give Tom Brady and the Patriots their sixth Super Bowl ring.
This entertaining matchup will never happen because the Saints were robbed of a chance to lose in the Super Bowl, but the Rams and Patriots will still provide a great game. It will feature the largest age gap between head coaches in a Super Bowl, pitting 66-year-old Patriots coach Bill Belichick against 33-year-old Rams coach Sean McVay. To put this into perspective, McVay actually played against Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman in college.
In a proper prediction, the Patriots will find a way to win no matter what. The Rams, though filled with star power, will fall to Tom Brady in what will be his last Super Bowl. The Patriots will once again be crowned champions, with Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady claiming yet another moment to establish his place as the best quarterback to play the sport of football.
Regardless of whom you choose to root for, the game promises to be entertaining and full of crazy calls and even crazier controversy.