The New Orleans Saints looked around in disbelief, searching for a yellow flag that never came during the NFL playoffs.
The Auburn Tigers were sure they’d get the ball after a Virginia player appeared to double-dribble in the closing seconds of a thrilling Final Four game, but the refs let it go.
Not long after, the guys in stripes weren’t so lax, whistling a disputed foul that sent the Cavaliers to the line for the winning free throws.
Some of the year’s most memorable games were decided by controversial calls — or, perhaps it would be more appropriate to say, the calls that didn’t get made.
Let’s take a look back at the Top 10 from 2019:
T he Los Angeles Rams advanced to the Super Bowl with an overtime win against the Saints that would not have been possible without an egregious mistake by the officials in the closing minutes of regulation.
Los Angeles cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman committed a blatant interference penalty with a helmet-to-helmet hit on Tommylee Lewis well before the pass arrived inside the 5, forcing the Saints to settle for Wil Lutz’s 31-yard field goal.
“I got away with one,” Robey-Coleman conceded.
Jared Goff had enough time to lead the Rams down the field for Greg Zuerlein’s tying field with 15 seconds remaining.
Then Zuerlein won it, 26-23, with a 57-yard kick in overtime.
“It happened right there in front of the person who would be the one to make the call, and everyone in the stands saw it, everyone watching at home on TV saw it,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said.
In response to the uproar, the NFL changed its rules to allow video reviews of interference calls, though that has seemingly led to even more confusion and complaints this season.
FINAL FOUR TWO-STEP
One year after becoming the first top seed to lose to a No. 16 seed, Virginia appeared headed for more heartbreak in the NCAA Tournament.
The Cavaliers squandered a 10-point lead in the final five minutes to Auburn. But they managed to pull it out, with a big helping hand from the officials.
Virginia’s Ty Jerome appeared to double-dribble for what could have been a decisive turnover. Or Jerome might have been fouled before the mishandle. There was no whistle for either.
With 1.5 seconds left and in need of some magic, Virginia got the ball to Kyle Guy in the corner. He turned and fired as Samir Doughty, hands straight up in the air, bumped into Guy’s hip. The shot was short, bouncing off the rim as Auburn started to celebrate.
Game over? Nope.
Official James Breeding called a foul on Doughty, sending Guy to the free-throw line. He calmly knocked down all three shots to give Virginia a disputed 63-62 win. Two nights later, in another overtime thriller, the Cavaliers captured their first national title by beating Texas Tech.
“We kind of thought we had it sealed,” Auburn’s Bryce Brown said. “I just didn’t agree with the call.”
Auburn and New Orleans weren’t the only teams to gripe about the officiating,
The NHL season ended for the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 7 of the playoffs after a major penalty sparked the San Jose Sharks to a 5-4 overtime victory.
On a faceoff in San Jose’s offensive zone with Las Vegas leading 3-0 midway through the third period, Cody Eakin cross-checked Sharks captain Joe Pavelski in the chest. Paul Stastny then bumped Pavelski as he fell to the ice, his helmet slamming down. Pavelski was knocked out and bleeding on the ice.
The officials huddled as a dazed Pavelski was helped to the locker room. They gave Eakin a five-minute major for cross-checking and a game misconduct.
The Golden Knights were livid — especially after the Sharks erupted for four goals during those five minutes with an extra skater.
“They called five minutes for that?” Vegas forward Jonathan Marchessault said. “It’s a joke, that’s what it is.”
The Golden Knights tied the game with a goal late in regulation, but Barclay Goodrow’s overtime goal won it for the Sharks, 5-4.
“The boys got together and said this is for Pavs,” San Jose’s Joe Thornton said. “It was just a matter of will, and we willed that one for him.”
The Sharks became just the second team ever to overcome a three-goal deficit in the third period to win a Game 7.
As for the Golden Knights, they had to be content with a call from the NHL apologizing for a penalty that was too harsh.
MIRACLE AT ANFIELD
Add another entry to Liverpool’s long list of storied comebacks.
This time, Lionel Messi and mighty Barcelona were on the receiving end in the semifinals of soccer’s European Champions League.
After romping to a 3-0 win in the first game of the home-and-home, total-goals series, Barca seemed a lock for the final.
But, back on their home turf at Anfield, Liverpool pulled off a stunning 4-0 victory that propelled the club to its sixth European title.
“This club has a big heart, and tonight the heart was pounding like crazy,” manager Juergen Klopp said. “You could feel it all over the world.”
Twenty-four hours later, Tottenham overcame a three-goal halftime deficit on the road, stunning Ajax in the other Champions League semifinal.
“We saw Liverpool last night,” Tottenham fullback Danny Rose said. “It goes to show it’s not over until it is over.”
After more than nine stomach-churning hours, the first Super Over in Cricket World Cup history — and perhaps the most extraordinary over ever played — came down to one last ball.
England calmly prevailed in the fading sunlight of Lord’s as New Zealand’s desperate scramble to score what would have been the winning run came up short. So ended the home team’s agonizing 44-year wait to be crowned world champion of the sport it invented.
“The most ridiculous game of cricket to have ever been played,” said Jos Buttler, England’s wicket-keeper.
“The guys are shattered,” countered New Zealand captain Kane Williamson. “It’s devastating.”
FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL
Kawhi Leonard got the bounce. Then another. Then another. And, yes, one more.
Finally, the shot fell through, giving the Toronto Raptors a 92-90 victory that bounced the Philadelphia 76ers out of the NBA playoffs.
Leonard’s shot from the corner over Joel Embiid was the first winning buzzer-beater in a Game 7 in NBA history. The ball danced on the rim four times before dropping. It was quite a capper to Leonard’s 41-point masterpiece.
The Raptors would go on to claim their first NBA title by beating the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
“It was great,” Leonard said. “It was a blessing to be able to get to that point and make that shot and feel that moment.”
Megan Rapinoe capped a remarkable year of sporting excellence and social activism by leading to United States to its second straight Women’s World Cup title.
Rapinoe broke a scoreless tie in the final with a second-half penalty kick, and the Americans went on to beat the Netherlands 2-0.
Rapinoe won the Golden Ball as top player and the Golden Boot as top scorer in the month-long tournament, but her impact went far beyond the field. She sparred with U.S. President Donald Trump and was one of the leading voices on a squad that loudly demanded equal pay with the men’s team.
“We’re such a proud and strong and defiant group of women,” Rapinoe said.
Her trademark victory pose, looking skyward with arms outstretched, also became a worldwide sensation.
In the wake of Typhoon Hagibis, host Japan turned in a thoroughly inspiring performance at the Rugby World Cup in its final group stage match against Scotland.
A brilliant display by the team known as the “Brave Blossoms” gave them a big halftime lead. Then they held off a furious Scottish comeback to preserve a 28-21 victory.
Japan advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time. Even though they lost to eventual champion South Africa, their tournament run was just what their battered nation needed after the ferocious storm.
BURROW BESTS TUA
Joe Burrow propelled LSU to the College Football Playoff and himself to the Heisman Trophy with a dazzling display against Tua Tagovailoa and Alabama in college football’s game of the year.
Burrow passed for 393 yards and three touchdowns, answered challenge after challenge, and helped end LSU’s eight-year string of futility against the Crimson Tide.
After the Tigers’ 46-41 victory, Burrow was carried off the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium by his teammates.
““We’ve finally got the tools that we need to beat those guys,” coach Ed Orgeron said. “To have a championship team, you’ve got to have a championship quarterback.”
ANGEL ON THE PITCHER’S MOUND
In their first home game after the death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs, the Los Angeles Angels honored his memory with a combined no-hitter from Taylor Cole and Félix Peña in a 13-0 victory over Seattle.
The Angels played a practically perfect game on the day before what would have been Skaggs’ 28th birthday.
“He was definitely looking over us tonight,” said Mike Trout, who contributed a 454-foot homer and six RBIs.
Later, officials ruled that Skaggs’ died from an accidental drug overdose, prompting Major League Baseball to start testing for cocaine and opioids.
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