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Judge blocks possible redo of Rams-Saints playoff game in wake of blown call

A quest by two New Orleans Saints ticketholders to force a full or partial do-over of this year's NFC championship game because of a blown "no-call" by game officials was rejected Thursday by a federal judge.

Officials failed to call interference or roughness penalties when a Rams player leveled a Saints receiver with a helmet-to-helmet hit at a crucial point in the final minutes of regulation time. The Rams won the January 20 game in overtime and are set to play the New England Patriots in Sunday's Super Bowl in Atlanta.

Fan reaction in New Orleans has included disbelief, anger and resignation, expressed in newspaper headlines, billboards ("They reffed up" said one), promises by some restaurants and bars they won't show the Super Bowl broadcast Sunday, and posters of blind referees.  

NFC Championship - Los Angeles Rams v New Orleans Saints
Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints reacts against the Los Angeles Rams during the fourth quarter in the NFC Championship game. Getty

There are also at least two lawsuits. One is a class-action lawsuit on behalf of ticketholders, still pending in state court as of Thursday.

The other was filed by season ticketholders Tommy Badeaux and Candis Lambert. Filed two days after the game, it says the NFL should be forced to implement a rule allowing Commissioner Roger Goodell to investigate "extraordinarily unfair acts" that affect the game. Remedies under that rule include rescheduling the game in full, or from the point at which the unfair act occurred.

U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan rejected arguments that Badeaux and Lambert were entitled to an order, known as a "writ of mandamus," forcing the NFL or Goodell to take action.

"None of the actions Plaintiffs might seek to compel Commissioner Goodell to do are the kinds of actions a writ of mandamus may address," Morgan said in a 17-page ruling in which she detailed the extraordinary circumstances in which Louisiana law allows a writ of mandamus to be issued.

In the same ruling, she also rejected arguments that the case should be in state court in New Orleans, where it was originally filed.

On Wednesday, Goodell held a pre-Super Bowl press conference where he broke his silence on the missed call in the Rams-Saints game.

"Whenever officiating is part of any kind of discussion postgame, it's never a good outcome for us. We know that, our clubs know that, our officials know that," he said. "But we also know our officials are humans. We also know that they are officiating a game that moves very quickly and have to make snap decisions under difficult circumstances and they are not going to get it right every time."

The Reuters news agency reported that NFL coaches are allowed to question a referee's decision, but aren't allowed on either penalties or uncalled penalties. Goodell said the NFL has worked hard to bring technology in to assist with officiating, but stressed it wasn't going to solve all the problems.

"We will look again at instant replay. There have been a variety of proposals over the last frankly 15 to 20 years of: should replay be expanded. It does not cover judgment calls ... this was a judgment call," Goodell said.

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