Report: Concern around NFL over officials that 'f---ed up' NFC championship living in Southern California

As the page turns from conference championship-game fallout to Super Bowl week, the most controversial story of the NFL postseason keeps finding more fuel.

The latest wrinkle is a report from ESPN that there is concern in NFL circles with the realization that all four officials who oversaw the Los Angeles Rams‘ win over the New Orleans Saints in the NFC championship live in Southern California.

The Rams’ win last Sunday was aided by a blatant missed pass interference penalty at a critical moment and has since resulted in a firestorm of fallout. The non-call has been almost universally derided and considered to be one of the worst blown calls in sports history.

Report: NFL admits it ‘f---ed up’ the call

The NFL admitted privately to the Saints that officials “f---ed up the call,” according to the report.

The report from Adam Schefter states that the Saints don’t believe that the crew of Southern California residents had any bias in calling the game and that nobody in the league is publicly concerned that the game was fixed, but that some in league circles are concerned with the optics of it being allowed to happen in a game involving a Los Angeles team.

NFL let this ‘slip through the cracks’

“The NFL put [itself] in a bad situation,” an anonymous officiating source told ESPN. “This is stuff that has to be taken care of prior to game. It’s just guys not thinking of what’s going on, nobody doing their checks and balances.

“The league is usually pretty much on top of it. This is one that slipped through the cracks.”

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Rams vs. Saints NFC Championship game
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Rams vs. Saints NFC Championship game
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 20: Los Angeles Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein (4) kicks the game winning field goal during the NFC Championship Football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints on January 20, 2019 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
New Orleans Saints' Ted Ginn catches a pass in front of Los Angeles Rams' Lamarcus Joyner during the second half of the NFL football NFC championship game, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 20: Los Angeles Rams inside linebacker Cory Littleton (58) and Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Ethan Westbrooks (95) celebrate after the game during the NFC Championship Football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints on January 20, 2019 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 20: New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) looks to throw the ball during the NFC Championship Football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints on January 20, 2019 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 20: Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) runs the ball for a gain during the NFC Championship Football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints on January 20, 2019 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 20: New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) runs the ball during the NFC Championship Football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints on January 20, 2019 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 20: Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) looks to throw the ball during the NFC Championship Football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints on January 20, 2019 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 20: New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) looks to throw the ball during the NFC Championship Football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints on January 20, 2019 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 20: Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) throws the ball down field during the NFC Championship Football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints on January 20, 2019 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 20: Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay after the NFC Championship Football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints on January 20, 2019 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 20: John Johnson #43 of the Los Angeles Rams intercepts a pass in overtime against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 20, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 20: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints shakes hands with Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams at the start of overtime in the NFC Championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 20, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 20: Head coach Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams celebrates with Andrew Whitworth #77 after defeating the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 20, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Los Angeles Rams defeated the New Orleans Saints with a score of 26 to 23. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
El wide receiver Ted Ginn (19), de los Saints de Nueva Orleáns, se queda con el balón ante el free safety Lamarcus Joyner, de los Rams de Los Ángeles, en el partido por el campeonato de la Conferencia Nacional de la NFL, el domingo 20 de enero de 2019, en Nueva Orleáns. (AP Foto/Gerald Herbert)
Los Angeles Rams players celebrate after overtime of the NFL football NFC championship game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Los Angeles Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman breaks up a pass intended for New Orleans Saints' Michael Thomas during the second half the NFL football NFC championship game Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Los Angeles Rams' JoJo Natson tries to get past New Orleans Saints' Vonn Bell during the first half the NFL football NFC championship game Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis (11) works for a coach against Los Angeles Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman (23) during the second half the NFL football NFC championship game Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in New Orleans. The Rams won 26-23. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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Entire crew lives near Los Angeles

Referee Bill Vinovich lives in Newport Beach, down judge Patrick Turner lives in Lakewood, side judge Gary Cavaletto lives in Santa Barbara and back judge Todd Prukop lives in Mission Viejo, according to the report. All four cities are in or around Los Angeles County. 

Cavaletto, who was responsible for the call on the play in which Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman violently ran through Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis before a Drew Brees pass arrived, initially told NFL officiating head Al Riveron that it was a “bang-bang play,” in a postgame meeting of officials, according to the report.

The room went silent when they watched the film and realized how badly they missed the call, according to the report.

Fallout continues to dominate NFL storyline

The NFL ended up moving officials from their downtown New Orleans hotel to a suburban location after the game as a precautionary measure.

The story has largely dominated the NFL discussion even as Super Bowl LIII between the Rams and the New England Patriots approaches.

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Rams, Patriots arrive in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII
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Rams, Patriots arrive in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII
Los Angeles Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman arrive sat the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Los Angeles Rams' Jared Goff gets off the team charter as they arrive at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Los Angeles Rams' Ndamukong Suh arrives at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
New England Patriots' Tom Brady arrives at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
New England Patriots' Devin McCourty, front, and brother Jason McCourty arrive at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
New England Patriots' Kyle Van Noy arrives at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
New England Patriots' Stephon Gilmore, front, arrives at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Jan 27, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots running back James White (28) arrives at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 27, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski (3) arrives at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 27, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Fans watch on the street corner as the New England Patriots arrive at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 27, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; General view of Super Bowl LIII signage near the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
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Shadow from NFC championship will linger

Some have bemoaned the outpouring of criticism coming from the New Orleans community that has included billboards around Super Bowl LIII host site Atlanta and player complaints ranging from receiver Michael Thomas calling for a do-over from commissioner Roger Goodell to defensive end Cam Jordan wearing a message of protest on his T-shirt before Sunday’s Pro Bowl.

But the outcry isn’t going away and is likely to cast a shadow over the Super Bowl that will be remembered in some circles as tainted. The Saints and their fans believe that they belong in the Super Bowl. And they have a legitimate gripe.

With stakes this high and a mistake this egregious, the NFL will long be saddled with the shadow of the 2019 NFC championship game.

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