NEW ORLEANS — For the second straight year, the New Orleans Saints’ season ended with a question about whether a pass interference flag should have been thrown.
Officials decided both on the field and after reviewing the replay that there was not enough contact to charge Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph with offensive pass interference after there appeared to be some hand-fighting with cornerback P.J. Williams on his game-winning 4-yard touchdown catch in overtime of the Vikings’ 26-20 victory.
“There is contact by both players, but none of that contact rises to the level of a foul,” said the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, Al Riveron, who briefly reviewed the play from the league’s command center in New York. “This is consistent with what we’ve done all year long — we left the ruling on the field. We let it stand.”
The replay review process was completed so quickly that some Saints players didn’t realize it had been reviewed.
When asked by a designated pool reporter if the decision was “obviously clear enough” for the replay process to be completed so quickly, Riveron said, “Yes, Fox was great. They gave us every angle that they had pertaining to the play. So we’re very comfortable with what we saw. Nothing came through afterward that we had not seen prior to making the ruling.”
This play wasn’t nearly as controversial as last season’s no-call in the NFC Championship Game — which helped the Los Angeles Rams come back to beat the Saints in overtime.
That play was so controversial that it actually led to the groundbreaking replay rule changes that allowed Sunday’s play to be reviewed in the first place.
Saints coach Sean Payton didn’t have any complaints about Sunday’s call.
When asked if he got an explanation from the officials, Payton said: “Listen, that wasn’t … really, I didn’t see any officials [after the game]. I saw Mike [Zimmer], we chatted for a little bit. And saw some of the [Vikings] players we coached in the Pro Bowl and congratulated them. They did a good job, they played well.”
Payton suggested multiple times that the Vikings “deserved to win.”
Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan was among those who took issue with Sunday’s no-call.
“It doesn’t matter. We’re clearly not going to get a second ruling. The [referees] ran off, so basically they said it was a touchdown and didn’t even review it,” Jordan said. “Aren’t all touchdowns reviewed, especially in overtime? That’s something that I’m sure the league will come out with something in the postgame. Or maybe they won’t.”
Jordan later told NOLA.com, “Even up to the last second, we figured the ref was going to come in and be a ref. It’s a joke.”
Rudolph said he didn’t expect to see a flag after he came down with the ball.
“Not at all,” Rudolph said. “[Quarterback Kirk Cousins] gave it up, threw the ball up in the air, gave me a chance to go get it, and my basketball instincts took over.”