NEW ORLEANS – Referee Carl Cheffers and his fellow officials exited the Superdome under a downpour of cups, towels and whatever else Saints fans could throw during a chaotic ending to the Vikings’ 26-20 overtime win on Sunday.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph’s game-winning touchdown was intensely scrutinized as he traded hand blows with Saints cornerback P.J. Williams before reaching for the 4-yard pass in the back corner of the end zone.
“He pushed off,” Saints safety Vonn Bell said. “You can’t do anything about it.”
The final ruling confirming the touchdown came from the league office and Al Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating.
“We looked at all the angles that Fox afforded us,” Riveron told a pool reporter after the game. “There is contact by both players, but none of that contact rises to the level of a foul. This is consistent with what we’ve done all year long — we left the ruling on the field. We let it stand.”
Fans largely ignored a plea from the stadium’s announcer to stop throwing items onto the field.
Saints coach Sean Payton said he did not receive an explanation after the game by officials, who quickly exited the field. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was steps behind them after chatting briefly with Payton near midfield.
“I looked up there and saw both feet in with a third foot down, and with the ball in his hands,” Zimmer said. “I was gone. I saw the referees leaving, so I was leaving.”
The Saints’ loss comes a year after a no-call on a defensive pass interference penalty went against them in their NFC Championship Game loss to the Los Angeles Rams. That led to offseason changes making pass interference calls reviewable — and automatically reviewable on scoring plays like Rudolph’s game-winning touchdown.
The Vikings were on the wrong end of a touchdown overturned because of offensive pass interference during a Week 2 loss at Green Bay, but they benefited this time.
“They hurt,” Saints linebacker Demario Davis said. “Eventually the sun comes out. This is a child’s game that we get to play. Every team except one has this feeling. I think you have to keep it in perspective.”