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Controversy Kept the NFC Championship from Being a True Classic

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 24:  Brett Favre #4 of the Minnesota Vikings throws a pass against the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome on January 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints won 31-28 in overtime.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Kevin PaulSenior Analyst IJanuary 10, 2017

This year’s NFC Championship between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints was an entertaining game that needed extra time to produce a winner.

On any other given Sunday, this would be considered an instant classic—and in some cases, many still may consider it as such.

Yet these eyes can only view this game as one flooded with sloppy play and marred with controversy. Left in its wake…the Vikings and its already scarred fanbase.

On Twitter, NFLprguy mentioned that this NFC Championship game “was the most-watched non-Super Bowl TV show since the Seinfeld finale”, which is ironic considering each ended in disappointment. This isn’t to take a shot at the Saints winning the game, but more the fact that this game had to end with questionable officiating.

In fact, one can’t help but wonder if perhaps the powers that be desperately wanted the New Orleans Saints story to continue into the Super Bowl record books—especially with the way this “almost classic” came to a conclusion.

Ever since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans in August 2005, the Saints have been the darling of the National Football League—and the life force of the state of Louisiana. As a result, the sports world has been pushing for this story to emerge for years…and here it finally is, but from this writer’s standpoint, it’s built on rocky ground.

And nothing grinds these gears more than a finish like this one, featuring misdirected blame on Brett Favre for blowing the game, plus a series of questionable calls from the officiating crew during the most crucial minutes.

First off, the critics need to leave Brett Favre alone. Certainly, he didn’t play a picture-perfect game and no doubt his late game decision to throw across his body on third-and-long was not the best choice he’s ever made.

But let’s put this thing in perspective a little more: Brett Favre took a beating all game from the Saints defense—and he kept getting up. He played hurt, most notably an ankle injury suffered during the game, which left him limping and quite possibly could have been the reason why Favre chose to not try and run for some yards on that third and long play with less than 20 seconds to go in regulation.

So don’t blame Favre. Instead, if fingers must be pointed, how about at Minnesota’s six fumbles, or, most notably, the fact that the Vikings managed a 12-man in the huddle penalty AFTER a timeout was called—which is downright inexcusable, especially afer the team was previously in range to attempt an NFC-clinching field goal.

But enough about Minnesota’s sloppy play; let’s instead look at the game’s waning minutes, when the officiating crew continuously appeared to turn the other cheek.

It’s never easy to overturn a call, and it’s even more difficult when the call would go against the home team in overtime of a playoff game. We get it, but it doesn’t make it right.

We could go on and on analyzing calls, but the one that’s most glaring was the pass interference call that put the Saints into field goal range. On a crucial play like that—where the ball was likely uncatchable—you just let ‘em play, unless the call is too blatant to keep the flag in your pants.

Instead, it was the officials who were left with their “pants on the ground” in this case.

Seriously.

Listen, this opinion may appear to be downing gallons of the purple Kool-Aid, but it isn’t like that at all. In fact, there’s elation here for the people of New Orleans and the people involved within the Saints organization.

It’s just a shame that this miracle sports story had to come together like this—just ask the people of Minnesota—but maybe you should wait a few weeks.

After all, the wounds are still fresh.

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