Refs miss obvious helmet-to-helmet hit on Alvin Kamara on drive that could have tied game

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.”

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Cowboys defeat Saints during Thursday Night Football
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Cowboys defeat Saints during Thursday Night Football
Dallas Cowboys players celebrate their win over -New Orleans Saints in an NFL football game, in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. Dallas won 13-10. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth (76) during the second half of an NFL football game, in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
New Orleans Saints middle linebacker Alex Anzalone (47) celebrates after Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott fumbles and New Orleans recovered the ball during the second half of an NFL football game, in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones (31) breaks up a pass intended for New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) during the second half of an NFL football game, in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. Jones was called for interference on the play. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) is pressured by Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford (98) as he passes during the second half of an NFL football game, in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones (31) breaks up a pass intended for New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) during the second half of an NFL football game, in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Keith Kirkwood (18) makes a touchdown catch over Dallas Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown (30) during the second half of an NFL football game, in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) is stopped by New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (23) in the first half of an NFL football game, in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) is hit by Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Jaylon Smith (54) and stopped short of the goal line in the first half of an NFL football game, in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) in the first half of an NFL football game, in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
New Orleans Saints tight end Dan Arnold (85) is hit by Dallas Cowboys strong safety Jeff Heath (38) after a catch in the first half of an NFL football game, in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) walks off of the field in the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett talks with an official in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) celebrates with fans as he runs off of the field following an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. Dallas won 13-10. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) signals first down following a run against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of an NFL football game, in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
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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.

See Kamara through the years: 

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Alvin Kamara through the years
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Alvin Kamara through the years
KNOXVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 28: Alvin Kamara #6 of the Tennessee Volunteers gains yardage against the Vanderbilt Commodores in a game at Neyland Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Patrick Murphy-Racey/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GA - OCTOBER 1: Alvin Kamara #6 of the Tennessee Volunteers celebrates after the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 02: Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara at the podium during the NFL Scouting Combine on March 2, 2017 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: Running back Alvin Kamara of Tennessee in action during day three of the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 3, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 15: Alvin Kamara #6 of the Tennessee Volunteers reacts after rushing for a touchdown against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Neyland Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Knoxville, Tennessee. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
METAIRIE, LA - AUGUST 23: New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) works out during Training Camp on August 23, 2017, at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center in Metairie, LA.(Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 11: New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) runs the ball out of the end zone during a NFL game between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints on September 11, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. The Vikings defeated the Saints 29-19.(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 29: Alvin Kamara #41 of the New Orleans Saints rushes the ball against the Chicago Bears during the first quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 29, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - NOVEMBER 12: Alvin Kamara #41 of the New Orleans Saints stretches before the start of NFL game action against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on November 12, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 19: Alvin Kamara #41 of the New Orleans Saints holds up AirHead candies after his team defeated the Washington Redskins during a NFL game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 19, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 04: Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints reacts during the first half of a game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Golden State Warriors at the Smoothie King Center on December 4, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 17: Alvin Kamara #41 of the New Orleans Saints walks off the field after playing the New York Jets at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 17, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 17: Alvin Kamara #41 of the New Orleans Saints in action against the New York Jets at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 17, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 24: Alvin Kamara #41 of the New Orleans Saints in action against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 24, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 24: Alvin Kamara #41 of the New Orleans Saints, Marshon Lattimore #23 and Michael Thomas #13 celebrate after a game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 24, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 31: New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) runs left during the second half of an NFL game between the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on December 31, 2017, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL. The Bucs defeated the Saints 31-24. (Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 07: Alvin Kamara #41 of the New Orleans Saints stands on the sideling during the second half of the NFC Wild Card playoff game Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 7, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 02: Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints attends SiriusXM at Super Bowl LII Radio Row at the Mall of America on February 2, 2018 in Bloomington, Minnesota. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 03: NFL Player Alvin Kamara attends the NFL Honors at University of Minnesota on February 3, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
KNOXVILLE, TN - APRIL 21: Former Tennessee Volunteers running back Alvin Kamara attending the Tennessee spring game on April 21, 2018, at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN. (Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
METAIRIE, LA. - JULY 28: New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) talks to the players before New Orleans Saints training camp practice on July 28, 2018 at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 18: Alvin Kamara performs onstage at The 2018 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 18, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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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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Chris Cwik is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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