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Roger Goodell calls NFL refs 'extraordinary,' addresses NFC Championship game

By
Alex Butler
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell discussed the state of the league's officiating and a blown call during the NFC Championship at a news conference Wednesday in advance of Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell discussed the state of the league's officiating and a blown call during the NFC Championship at a news conference Wednesday in advance of Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

ATLANTA, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called the league's officiating "extraordinary" when asked about the non-call in the NFC Championship game.

Goodell made the comments when meeting with the media at a news conference Wednesday in Atlanta. He also said the NFL will consider future instant replay for pass interference calls.

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Goodell admitted the officials should have called a penalty on Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman for an early hit on New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis in the fourth quarter of the Jan. 20 conference title game.

The Rams and Saints were tied 20-20 before the third-down play. Saints quarterback Drew Brees tossed a pass to the right side of the field toward Lewis before he was taken out by Robey-Coleman. Officials did not call pass interference or a personal foul for helmet-to-helmet.

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New Orleans kicked a field goal to go up three points, but the Rams won the game in overtime.

"It's a play that should be called," Goodell said.

Goodell said that he spoke to Saints coach Sean Payton, team owner Gayle Benson and head of football operations Troy Vincent, among others, after the game. He did not disclose what he said in those conversations.

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"Let me start just on the basics. Look, we understand the frustration of the fans. I've talked to [Payton], the team, the players. We understand the frustration that they feel right now," Goodell said. "We certainly want to address that."

"Whenever officiating is part of any kind of discussion post-game, it's never a good outcome for us."

Robey-Coleman received a fine last week for the helmet-to-helmet hit on Lewis. NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron admitted to Payton that pass interference should have been called.

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"Technology is not going to solve all those issues ... but we have to continue to go down that path. ... We will look again at instant replay," Goodell said.

The commissioner also said that he never considered overturning the result of the game and having it replayed.

He has the authority to overturn a game result or have any portion of a game replayed for an "extraordinarily unfair act," but he pointed to another section in the rulebook that says he cannot take action based on a complaint by a team owner based on a judgement call by officials.

Goodell admitted that officials are human and will make mistakes, but also lauded the league's referees.

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"As you know, our rules do evolve," Goodell said. We have made changes to our rules every year. We try to get better. We try to learn. I think that has been very effective. I don't think the game has ever been healthier."

"I don't think the game has ever been officiated at this level. It's extraordinary," Goodell said.

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