You can argue the Saints have only themselves to blame. Because they arguably mishandled their end of game drive from the start. They had chances to win and couldn’t convert.
The non pass interference call however will hang like a millstone around the NFL for a while. Whether New Orleans would have gone on to win if it got called is an open question.
It’s an open question the NFL did not want. This is fixable though.
The CFL Way
If that play had happened in a CFL game, the Saints would have been able to challenge the non-call.
As Wikipedia notes, “Since 2014, all defensive pass interference situations have been reviewable, with replay officials authorised to overturn called fouls even if the pass had not been touched before the foul, and also to impose fouls that were not called on the field”.
The CFL has adjusted the rule a few times in response to game situations. The upshot in 2018 was that coaches had only one challenge to use. With that they challenged 42 defensive pass interference calls, and of that total, 20 were overturned. Doubtless Sean Payton would have loved the chance to do this.
The most notable example is from the 2015 Grey Cup. Two pass-interference calls helped Edmonton drive for the game-winning score. The key point being the second was only called after a coaches’ challenge that the referees initially failed to penalise.
For refs making these calls in real time speeds it is difficult. You could have called a helmet to helmet hit on that same play for instance.
Either way we would probably all be debating something else today if the NFL had the same replay rules as the CFL here.
Banner image from SB Nation: Canal St Chronicles