Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman on no-call: 'I was beat'

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It's the collision heard 'round the world, and we probably won't stop hearing about it until Super Bowl LIII kicks off.

Late in the fourth quarter of a tied NFC Championship Game, Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman sprinted toward the sideline, where Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis was running a wheel route out of the backfield. Lewis appeared to be open for a completion that would've positioned the Saints to run almost all of the remaining clock out before attempting a game-winning field goal.

With Drew Brees' pass in the air and headed toward Lewis, Robey-Coleman turned away from the incoming ball and barreled into Lewis, face first, sending Lewis spinning to the ground as the ball landed on the Mercedes-Benz Superdome turf.

All 73,028 in attendance likely expected a flag for defensive pass interference to land. It never left an official's pocket, surprising everyone watching -- including Robey-Coleman.

"Yes, I got there too early," Robey-Coleman said afterward, per The MMQB's Robert Klemko. "I was beat, and I was trying to save the touchdown."

A shocking admission, no doubt. But Robey-Coleman quickly added he was told by an official that the ball was tipped, which would have made his contact legal -- except for the helmet-to-helmet part of it.

Saints coach Sean Payton said Al Riveron, NFL senior VP of officiating, called him immediately after the game.

"It was simple. They blew the call," Payton said. "They said it should never have, not been a call. They said not only was it interference, it was helmet-to-helmet. There was two calls. They just couldn't believe it.

"We spoke initially, then I called to follow up and (it was the) first thing Al (Riveron) said when I got on the phone. 'We messed it up.' But we go into these league meeting and we sit as an ownership group and we don't further evaluate the replay system. There's just too much at stake."

New Orleans kicked a field goal on the very next play to go ahead 23-20 with 1:41 left to play. Los Angeles went down the field, kicked a 48-yard field goal to tie it at 23-23, then intercepted Brees in overtime and kicked a 57-yarder to walk off with the win and NFC crown. As Payton said, there was a lot at stake. There were also multiple opportunities for the Saints to win the game after the controversial collision.

And still, there's the human element of sport, especially ones played at the highest level at incredible rates of speed. This play, even from the set-back view of a broadcast camera, still looked pretty close in real time. Robey-Coleman felt so initially, even if those viewing on television changed their minds after seeing the slow-motion replay -- a luxury not afforded to officials, barring an offseason rule change.

"I thought it was for a split-second; but the ref got up -- when I got up, he said 'incomplete,' so I just was like, 'Thank you,'" Robey-Coleman said, per ESPN.com. "I didn't look back at the ball. I didn't play the ball. If I had played the ball, then it would've been a different story. But since I just went straight to him -- and when I seen his hands go up and I hit him, I just heard the crowd go crazy and I was like, 'Aw, this is a flag.' And I got up and he said incomplete, I was like, 'Ah!' And then the ref said, like, it looked it was a tip. Like, it was, like, tipped. So I was like, 'OK, cool.'"

Meanwhile, Payton was losing his cool.

"Listen, they played well," Payton said of the Rams. "They played well. I mean, our team played well, well enough to win the game. We should have."

They didn't, and they'll have months to consider what could have -- maybe even should have -- been for these stellar Saints.

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