The NFL spent weeks during the offseason preaching that the league would no longer tolerate helmet-to-helmet hits. When it came time to follow through on that promise in Week 13, the refs dropped the ball.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara took a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s contest against the Dallas Cowboys. The hit took place on a crucial third down with the Saints trailing by three points with under 10 minutes to go. Kamara caught a short pass from Drew Brees on third and 17, and was hit by Jaylon Smith after gaining eight yards.
The helmet-to-helmet contact was so obvious that even the broadcasting team commented on the play. Troy Aikman said the penalty call “should have been easy to make.” Former NFL ref Mike Pereira agreed, saying the play was a “clear example of leading with the helmet.”
Had the refs thrown a flag on the play, the Saints would have gained 15 yards and an automatic first down, putting them in field-goal range down by three points. Instead, the team punted on the next play, giving the ball back to Dallas.
Things didn’t get much better for the refs on the next drive. As Dallas was driving down the field, the refs missed an obvious face mask on Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. During the drive, Fox cameras showed Kamara using smelling salts on the sideline.
The no-call on Kamara wound up having a huge impact on the outcome of the game. The Saints went on to lose the contest 13-10 after Brees threw a late interception on the team’s final drive. His pass was intended for Kamara, who was able to return to the game following the helmet-to-helmet hit.
The loss could have major consequences for the Saints. The team now sits at 10-2, and could lose its hold on the No. 1 seed in the NFC depending on how the Los Angeles Rams finish the season.
The Saints held the tiebreaker over the Rams after beating them 45-35 in Week 9. The Rams could open up a one-game lead for the top spot in the NFC with a win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
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