DENVER (AP) — Sean Payton found a way to get his dig in on the officials, and so did Vic Fangio .
Walt Anderson’s crew denied New Orleans an 87-yard fumble return for a touchdown early in the Saints’ 27-9 loss to the Rams on Sunday.
Defensive end Trey Hendrickson knocked the ball from Jared Goff’s hand and Cameron Jordan scooped it up and headed for the opposite end zone, only to hear the officials mistakenly rule it an incompletion and inexplicably blowing the play dead.
Because of the whistle, when the review showed it was a fumble, the Saints only got the ball at their 13.
“When we get poor officiating or we get an awful call like that, we can’t control that,” said Payton, whose team also was victimized by a bad call against the Rams in the NFC championship game that many believe denied them a trip to the Super Bowl.
In Denver, the Broncos lost to Chicago 16-14 on a field goal as time expired after Bradley Chubb was whistled for roughing the passer on what appeared to be a clean hit on Mitchell Trubisky with 24 seconds left.
The call prompted Fox analyst Mark Schlereth to declare on the broadcast, “OK, I guess we’re going to legislate contact in a contact sport. That’s ridiculous.”
Asked for his thoughts on the penalty Monday, Fangio said, “In regard to officiating, I’m just going to quote Sean Payton, who is a much more senior head coach than I am, ‘We can’t control poor officiating or awful calls.’”
Fangio still thought he’d won his first NFL game as a head coach when the clock ran out following Trubisky’s 20-yard pass over the middle to Allen Robinson on fourth-and-15 from his 40. Robinson went to the ground at the Denver 35-yard line just as the clock hit 1 second.
When that last second ticked off, the Broncos began celebrating only to see rookie referee Adrian Hill huddle with his crew and then put 1 second back on the clock, saying Chicago had called its final timeout in the nick of time.
“No, I don’t think there was,” a second left, Fangio insisted. “He went down at 0:01 and nothing in life, in the world, happens simultaneously. There is lag time there, and they didn’t deem there was lag time there.”
Eddy Pineiro’s 53-yard field goal sent the Broncos to 0-2 for the first time since 1999, when John Elway retired, Steve Atwater bolted and Shannon Sharpe and Terrell Davis suffered season-ending injuries following back-to-back Super Bowl triumphs.
“I thought we won,” Derek Wolfe said. “And then I was like, ‘Wait, how are they kicking a field goal? The time is out.’ And then before that, I thought, ‘How do they call a roughing the passer on Chubb?”
The call on Chubb was eerily similar to a flag Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman drew for what looked like a clean hit on Joe Flacco earlier in the fourth quarter.
In Los Angeles, NFL officiating chief Al Riveron said the whistle never should have been blown on Jordan’s return.
“We tell our referees when in doubt to let it play out,” Riveron said in the pool report. “If it is an incomplete pass, we can always come back and make it an incomplete pass. In this situation, as it occurs here, the most we can do is give the ball to the defense. But we cannot, by rule, give them the advance. All we can do is give them the ball at the spot of the clear recovery.”
It looked as if the officials also missed a roughing penalty on that play when defensive tackle David Onyemata hit Goff in the helmet, appearing to yank his facemask.
Gene Steratore , ex-NFL official and current rules analyst for CBS Sports, tweeted, “you have to be 100% sure the QB’s arm is moving forward with control of the ball. The ball was clearly out of Goff’s control and should’ve been ruled a fumble. However, the contact to Goff was roughing the passer and if called, LA would’ve kept the ball.”
The game was a rematch of the Rams’ 26-23 overtime win in New Orleans in the NFC championship game, a game that turned on an uncalled pass interference by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman.
In Denver, Fangio disputed two decisions on the final drive but didn’t argue with the four holding calls called on his left tackle Garett Bolles , giving him 34 infractions in 34 NFL starts.
Only one of the flags came while Bolles was blocking Khalil Mack.
“The unusual part of those is when you hear one guy got called for four holdings, you’re immediate thought is passing. Three of the four were on running plays,” Fangio said.
Actually, it’s not that unusual.
Lost in the hoopla surrounding the new pass interference rule that allows coaches to challenge calls and non-calls — a direct result of what happened in the NFC championship game — is another point of emphasis this season: backside offensive holding.
It’s been flagged more than 90 times so far, double the number through two weeks last season.
“Those are drive stoppers,” Fangio said. “So, we’ve got to be able to block our guy without holding.”
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