A Week Later, A Blown Call Is Still Topic A
ATLANTA — At N.F.L. media nights, the biggest stars speak at podiums, and this year was no different. When the Los Angeles Rams took the floor, quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley II and Coach Sean McVay drew big crowds.
But cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman drew equally large crowds. A week ago, Robey-Coleman was just a former undrafted free agent finishing his sixth season. Now, he needed media minders to keep reporters from digging too deeply into a play that may have altered the Super Bowl.
That came in the N.F.C. Championship Game in New Orleans, where he drilled Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis before he could get in position to catch a pass from Drew Brees.
No flag was thrown for pass interference or helmet-to-helmet contact. The Saints went on to kick a field goal, but left enough time on the clock for the Rams to tie the game and send it into overtime, when they eventually won, 26-23.
The game-changing play has been a game changer for Robey-Coleman. He said he had received numerous death threats, and his social media accounts have been overwhelmed with hate mail from angry Saints fans.
“Right now, my phone is crazy,” Robey-Coleman said. “Like my brother said, a lot of people probably had money on the game.”
Robey-Coleman said he’s received more than 3,000 direct messages on Instagram, more than 1,000 messages on Facebook and 500 messages on Snapchat.
“I got threats here and there, but nothing to dwell on,” he said. “All types of threats, death threats.”
The non-call led Saints owner Gayle Benson to say the team had been “unfairly deprived” of a chance to reach the Super Bowl. Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy criticized the N.F.L. on the Senate floor during a government shutdown.
Other than the head official speaking to a pool reporter after the game, the N.F.L. has said nothing about the non-call on the play, or the events that have followed.
The league, though, all but admitted a penalty should have been called when, on Friday, it fined Robey-Coleman $26,739 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Lewis.
Robey-Coleman said, ”We moved on from it as a team, and I moved on personally.” Indeed, his fellow defensive back Marcus Peters on Monday night refused to answer questions about officiating or the non-call.
But Robey-Coleman hasn’t made it easier on himself, or his teammates. He said Saturday that the ball Brees threw to Lewis was tipped, suggesting that Lewis could not have caught the pass regardless of what Robey-Coleman did.
To compound matters, he said that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had slowed with age, comments that may give the Patriots extra motivation.
“Whatever he was doing — because of his age and all that — he’s not doing as much of that anymore,” he told Bleacher Report. “He’s still doing the same things; he’s just not doing as much of it.”
On Monday, Robey-Coleman said the comments about Brady’s age were taken out of context, and that he has a lot of respect for him. Brady declined to comment.