Nickell Robey-Coleman admits to interference

NEW ORLEANS — Nickell Robey-Coleman had been enthusiastically holding court for nearly a half hour.

The Los Angeles Rams cornerback was still in his game pants, explaining the controversial non-call after he contacted Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis with 1:45 to go in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game and the score tied 20-20. 

But Robey-Coleman had not yet seen the replay. 

After closely watching the sequence unfold on a reporter’s phone, he paused. Then his Cheshire grin melted into a laugh that doubled the sixth-year vet over.

“Ah, hell yeah, that was PI,” Robey-Coleman said in L.A.’s victorious locker room, co-signing what the rest of America already knew and what Sean Payton said the NFL had even admitted — he’d committed pass interference and gotten away with it.

“I did my part,” Robey-Coleman said with a smile. “Referee made the call. We respect it.”

So did his team.

“I thought it was a bang bang type play,” said Rams coach Sean McVay. “The one thing I respect about the refs today is they let the guys compete and they let the guys play. Nickell Robey made a nice play.

“I thought it was a competitive type play, and certainly I’m not going to complain about the way it was officiated. … I thought they let the guys compete within the framework of the rules, and that’s part of what NFL football is about.”

But even after seeing the (non)-error of his ways, Robey-Coleman was unashamed, feeling he’d taken a calculated risk and won on a play where he felt the Rams were trying to fool his defense. And to hear Robey-Coleman tell it, he probably deserves some level of credit for a season-saving play.

Robey-Coleman’s assignment on the play was to cover Alvin Kamara in the slot, but he’d noticed the 5-7, 168-pound Lewis enter the New Orleans huddle and thought he was trying to hide among his larger teammates. 

“Nobody saw him but me,” Robey-Coleman said of Lewis, whom he said was ducking down while trying to go unseen.

More: Sean Payton: NFL admits official missed pass interference call on Rams in NFC Championship

More: Rams stun Saints in overtime after controversial no-call, advance to Super Bowl LIII as NFC champs

So he made a decision unconsciously formed in Rams practices, ditched Kamara before the snap and sprinted across the formation toward Lewis, uncovered on the other side of the field.

“Pure instinct,” said Robey-Coleman. “McVay does that play to us every week with the quick speed break.”

Then …

“I just got there and whacked his ass,” he said after leveling Lewis, knowing he hadn’t even turned to look for the ball, which harmlessly hit the turf. Instead of first-and-10 near the Rams’ 5-yard line, New Orleans settled for a field goal instead of potentially getting the haymaker that could have put L.A. away.

Referee Bill Vinovich told a pool reporter after the game, “It was a judgment call by the covering official. I personally have not seen the play.”

Much like Robey-Coleman.


Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis


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