(Reuters) - New Orleans coach Sean Payton said the NFL’s league office told him referees had blown a call in Sunday’s National Football Conference (NFC) championship game that cost the Saints a trip to the Super Bowl.
The Saints suffered a 26-23 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Rams after officials failed to whistle for what looked like pass interference and helmet-to-helmet infractions on the same play.
With the game tied at 20-20 and 1:45 remaining in regulation, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman slammed into Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis as a pass from quarterback Drew Brees hung in the air.
“Just getting off the phone with the league office. They blew the call,” Payton said. “They said not only was it interference it was helmet to helmet. Two calls. They couldn’t believe it.”
The Saints settled for a field goal but were denied the chance to run the clock down and virtually end the game. The Rams then rallied to stun the Saints and book a trip to the Super Bowl.
Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein nailed a 57-yard field goal in overtime to end the wild affair as the New Orleans home crowd rained down boos.
Brees, 40, and Payton were attempting to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since winning it in 2010.
The coach said he was told the officials felt Robey-Coleman and Lewis had contacted each other simultaneously as the ball arrived, which would not elicit a penalty.
“All the more reason why we need more replay,” Payton said.
“We lost a chance to go to the Super Bowl on a call like that. “It will take a while to get over this - you may never get over it.”
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford