By: David Schiele
They say that the holidays are the season for giving. Referee Pete Morelli and his crew gifted the New Orleans Saints with a 23-13 win over the Falcons on Christmas Eve. They penalized Atlanta 10 times for 91 yards, refused to reverse their call on a should-have-been touchdown catch by Julio Jones, and let New Orleans get away with pass interference and facemask infractions.
I’ve been watching football for nearly 20 years. I can confidently say that was the worst officiated game I have ever seen.
I know Saints fans will point to what happened two weeks ago in Atlanta, where the Falcons gained nine first-downs via penalty. However, what happened in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was a travesty. As I scrolled through Twitter, I saw a handful of Falcons fans and Saints fans on one accord about the abysmal officiating. Even fans of other NFL teams chimed in on the matter.
Now, you won’t find a juicy quote from the Falcons regarding how this game was called. That organization prides itself on staying classy in the face of defeat no matter what. You better believe they were grumbling in the locker room before the media showed up though.
Nonetheless, the Dirty Birds are not without fault. The offense turned the ball over twice at the Saints’ one-yard line, dropped a plethora of passes, allowed five sacks and converted only two of their 13 third-down opportunities. The defense did everything they could with an interception and holding the Saints to 3/13 on third down.
This loss hurts Atlanta because they will officially be de-throned as NFC South champions next week. The Falcons can still defend their conference championship if they beat the Panthers to earn the last playoff spot. If the Falcons are to clinch the final playoff spot, they will have to play all their playoff games on the road.
It has been a tough 2017 season for the Falcons. However, there is still hope…as long as the officials don’t take it from them.