Scott Fowler

Overtime, the refs and Romo magic: 3 thoughts about a thrilling, flawed NFL Sunday

Three thoughts after watching two thrilling but flawed overtime games on the NFL’s Championship Sunday;

1. The NFL overtime rule is broken.

In baseball, both teams get to bat in extra innings. In tennis, both players get to serve in a tiebreaker. In basketball, they don’t have a pre-OT coin flip, let one team start with the ball and, if that team scores, declare the game over.

And in college football, both offenses get the ball at least once from the other team’s 25-yard line.

But the NFL has long lived and died by the sudden-death OT rule, one in which a coin flip can take on ridiculously outsized importance. Although the rule was modified in the 2010 postseason to at least no longer allow a first-possession field goal to end the game, it still incorrectly allows a first-possession TD to do so.

So New England’s Tom Brady got the ball and scored and that was it, while Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes sat on the sidelines and never got to touch it in OT. Silly. In a league where the quarterbacks are the biggest stars, you have one of them never seeing the ball in OT?

C’mon, man. That rule is as outdated as a VHS tape.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is sacked by a hoard of New England Patriots defenders in the third quarter Sunday night. Jill Toyoshiba

2. The NFL officiating system is also broken.

I’m not shedding any crocodile tears over the New Orleans Saints losing to the L.A. Rams on Sunday, but why is a play like that obvious helmet-to-helmet contact and pass interference not reviewable?

And get this: The NFL has long allowed one pool reporter to interview the head referee about controversial calls after games, in the interest of “transparency.” But head referee Bill Vinovich neatly sidestepped any comments about the most important non-call of the game Sunday, saying to a pool reporter when asked about the play: “I personally have not seen the play.”

Oh, you didn’t, Bill? Well, I bet someone will go find you a TV monitor. Or take out your cell phone. Watch the play for a few minutes, and then make a comment. We’ll wait.

I understand it wasn’t Vinovich’s call to make on the field, but it’s his officiating crew. He’s the boss. He’s the guy who’s supposed to say what happened. To dodge the question like that is completely unacceptable.

Either go watch the play and talk about it, or get the official out there who did allow the play to go on without calling it, and have him talk to the reporter.

Side note: I had to appreciate The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune banner headline in Monday’s newspaper, which read: “Reffing Unbelievable.”

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman seems to deliver an early hit to New Orleans Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis late in the fourth quarter, thwarting a potential game-winning drive during the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. The non-call helped put the Rams in the Super Bowl. Robert Gauthier TNS

3. Tony Romo is a jewel.

The way Romo predicted every play in New England’s game-winning overtime drive based on how the Patriots lined up on each play was absolutely uncanny. Pass to Julian Edelman? Check. Time for Rob Gronkowski? Check. Running play for the touchdown? Check.

If Romo calls you up today and tells you to stay inside, or to buy a lottery ticket, or to go ahead and ask that certain person in your office out on a date because in a year the two of you are going to be married, believe him.

Best news about the upcoming Super Bowl between the L.A. Rams and the Patriots on Feb. 3 in Atlanta?

Romo will be calling the game.

Sports columnist Scott Fowler has written for The Charlotte Observer since 1994. He has authored or co-authored eight books, including four about the Carolina Panthers. In 2018, Fowler won the Thomas Wolfe award for outstanding newspaper writing. He also hosted the Observer’s hit podcast “Carruth,” which Sports Illustrated named the best podcast of the year in 2018.