Dec 7, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton shows emotion against the Atlanta Falcons in the second quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium

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Bobby Hebert says "the fix was in" on Saints loss to Falcons

Seth Dunlap
December 08, 2017 - 12:54 pm

There are controversial calls, and then there was what happened yesterday.   

The Saints-Falcons game was effectively ended when a referee called a penalty on Saints coach Sean Payton who was demonstrably calling for a timeout.  It was something that happens in nearly every football game.  A coach, whose team is trailing late in the game, animatedly calling for a timeout trying to get the officials attention through the noise and chaos.  Yet last we saw Payton get penalized for doing what countless other coaches have done throughout the history of football.  The call turned what would have been a third down for Atlanta into a fifteen yard penalty and an automatic first down.

Game over.

That was just the end to what most people saw as a less than effective night for Clete Blakeman's officiating crew.  

The Saints (9-4) were penalized 11 times for 87 yards, nine of which resulted in Falcons' first downs.  That is the most first downs gained via penalty by a team in one game in at least 20 years.  The Falcons (8-5) were flagged just four times for 35 yards.

The game was promoted as a mid-week primetime clash between two bitter NFC South rivals, both fighting for playoff spots in a deep and talented conference.  While the game was a fabulous display of playoff-type football, it was overshadowed by those penalties, and more Thursday night football injuries - an oft discussed issue when teams are forced to play on short weeks. 

Do I think this was an intentional conspiracy by the officiating crew or the league? No, I don't.  Poor officiating happens all the time in the NFL.  Those guys are human.  Just like Drew Brees made a huge mistake by throwing into double coverage on the Saint final drive, a pass that was intercepted when the Saints were well within range of a tying field goal, officials make mistakes.  That doesn't mean it's intentional.  However, that also doesn't make them immune to criticism.  They should, and will, be heavily scrutinized for their performance last night.

Former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert had a different take.  Hebert was was incensed by the penalty dispartiy last night, thinking something more sinister indeed may have been going on behind the scenes.

"I don't know if I've ever seen a game like this," Hebert said.  "And usually I don't say, 'you know 'the officials they're cheating' or calls aren't going our way.  Man, it definitely looked like the fix was on and they wanted the Christmas Eve game (against Atlanta) to mean something.  They wanted to keep Atlanta in contention.  It was a game of penalties and it was overkill. I understand you've got to call some penalties.  But just throwing the flag so you become too much of the game?  It gets to be ridicluous.  Almost you have a three to one penalties (advantage) over Atlanta.  You're going to tell me we were playing that much on the edge where we have 11 penatlies, they only have 4?  That's a bunch of bull!"

Hebert wasn't the only one upset.  Saints coach Sean Payton was visibly infuriated during his post-game press conference.  So were most of the Saints players in the locker room after the loss.  

"Just a very frustrating loss, and I think the officials were just too much a part of it," Hebert said.  "I look at that (penalty) discrepancy, and that's why Sean Payton was ticked off.  I'm ticked off."

If you're still ticked off as well, then perhaps the best therapy would be listening to the Cajun Cannon's full post-game rant from the "Point After" show last night.  You can do that by clicking on the podcast link below.


Cajun Cannon Post Game Commentary

Bobby Hebert gives his thoughts on the Saints in their 20-17 loss to the Falcons, who was to blame and who stood out in the game?

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