League admits to officiating miscues

Updated: October 31, 2003, 6:01 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- The NFL has informed Saints coaches that officials made three critical incorrect calls -- all costly to the Saints -- in New Orleans' 23-20 overtime loss to Carolina last Sunday.

The first blown call would have, if correct, given the Saints a 2-0 lead. On Carolina's first possession, Jake Delhomme threw a backhanded pass out of his own end zone as he was being brought down.

Referee Mike Carey, the crew chief, initially threw a flag, but then picked it up, ruling that an eligible receiver was in the vicinity. In a post-game report, officials admitted there was no eligible receiver in the area of the incompletion and the play should have resulted in a safety.

The next mistake led directly to a Panthers go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Saints cornerback Fred Thomas was called for defensive pass interference against Walter Young on the play, but officials admitted that Young initiated the contact by pulling Thomas' helmet. Instead of a first-and-goal at the Saints' 18, the Panthers had a first-and-goal at the 1. On the next play, Stephen Davis scored the go-ahead touchdown.

Then in overtime, officials said Panthers linebacker Lester Townes should have been called for defensive holding when he tackled running back Deuce McAllister in pass coverage on the Saints' second play of overtime. No penalty was called, and quarterback Aaron Brooks scrambled for a 2-yard gain. The infraction would have given the Saints an automatic first down at the Carolina 38-yard line. Instead, they faced a third-and-5 at the Carolina 41. New Orleans reached the 37 on third down but failed to convert a fourth-and-1, setting up Carolina's winning drive.

After last Sunday's game, several Saints players complained about the non-call against Townes.

"Sometimes that happens," McAllister said. "We'll probably get an apology this week, but that doesn't help our record."


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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