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SportsMonday: The Nuclear (Non-) Call

So about that call . . .

It wasn't just that at a critical juncture of Sunday's NFC championship game, the Ram nickelback named Nickell (Robey-Coleman) committed pass interference that wasn't called.

He committed nuclear pass interference! It should've been a spot foul and 15 yards!

Actually, it would have been a spot foul and half the distance - and of course an automatic first down. The Saints would have used to the resulting three plays to bleed out just about all of the clock before attempting a short, almost certainly game-winning kick. But it wasn't called and soon the Rams rallied to tie the game in the waning seconds of regulation and then earned a 26-23 overtime victory and a trip to the Super Bowl.

For a couple paragraphs, let's return to this name and position thing. Robey-Coleman, who stands all of 5-feet-7, is the classic third, or slot corner. He is just like the Bears' Bryce Callahan, who is the same height. Just this season, players like these moved up to starting status without doing anything.

There was a collective realization that when teams play nickel defense (which refers to playing a fifth defensive back instead of a third linebacker) more often than the classic 3-4 or 4-3 (linemen-linebackers), nickelbacks no longer qualify as subs. So Nickell isn't just a nickelback, he's a starter.

In a quick search, I couldn't find a story that addressed the wacky coincidence of this first name meeting this position. I did find a nice story about Robey-Coleman's last name. It turns out he hyphenated it in 2016 as a tribute to his mother, who had died of a heart attack in 2010 and has served as an inspiration to him ever since.

Anyway, Robey-Coleman has apparently done enough good things in his life that he received about as a big a break as a defensive back can get when he wasn't flagged for running over Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis before the pass got there. And doing so helmet first for goodness sake! (Local angle alert! Lewis played his college ball at Northern Illinois.)

Now is usually the time when sports observers who at least try not to be meatballs say things like, "Yes, that was a terrible call but the Saints had many other chances to make plays that would have won this game either late in regulation or in overtime." And that is true.

But fans are still stuck in the first couple phases (anger, sadness) of grief this morning. As someone who usually just wants the best team to win when my team isn't playing, the main thing I'm still feeling this morning is it sucks that the Saints got jobbed so obviously. Saints fans may never get out of this stage. At least they won't until their team contends for a championship again.

There will be calls for the NFL to subject more calls to replay review, but come on. If we saw anything in both games Sunday it was that there are already enough reviews. More could result in a handful of critical calls being changed but at the cost of a ton more reviews. No thank you.

My son Noah pointed out that the main thing the NFL could do is to finally step up and hire full time officials (the guys in the stripes are part-timers). It is well past time for this incredibly rich league to do that but don't hold your breath.

And now we who are not Saints fans move on and look forward to two weeks of Super Bowl hype. Surely that will be enough time for some intrepid reporter to do a story about how Nickell ended up playing where he plays.


Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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