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Saints see another playoff loss end with pass interference controversy

Last season, the New Orleans Saints saw their Super Bowl hopes dashed by pass interference controversy that ultimately changed how football is officiated.

Sunday produced a vivid flashback and more pain for Saints fans in the Superdome.

Did Kyle Rudolph's push-off in the end zone warrant a pass interference penalty? (AP Photo/Brett Duke)

Kyle Rudolph’s game-winner mired in controversy

Kyle Rudolph’s push-off on the game-winning overtime touchdown catch against the Saints won’t result in any rule changes. But it’s sure to harden an already embittered Saints fan base determined that NFL officials are out to get New Orleans.

The play happened on third-and-goal from the 4-yard line on the opening drive of overtime after Kirk Cousins connected on a 43-yard bomb with Adam Thielen to set the Vikings up near the goal line.

Cousins took a shotgun snap and immediately looked in the direction of Rudolph, who ran a fade route in the left corner of the end zone while facing single coverage from cornerback P.J. Williams.

Rudolph, a 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end, used his significant size advantage over the 6-foot, 196-pound Williams to secure the catch and the 26-20 victory.

An overhead angle showed that Rudolph also used his right arm against Williams’ chest before the ball arrived to gain separation.

Did officials get it right?

Is that offensive pass interference?

It certainly could be called that way. Officials took a brief look at the replay before deciding it was a legal catch, ending the game and setting the Vikings up for a Saturday afternoon date in the divisional round of the playoffs against top-seeded San Francisco.

After the game, the NFL’s head of officiating Al Riveron released a statement that “none of that contact rises to the level of a foul.”

For the Saints? It’s another heartbreaking end to a playoff run, this time on the heels of a 13-3 regular season that saw them relegated to the wild-card round.

More pain in New Orleans regardless

In reality it’s a borderline call that more often than not is going to be overlooked by officials in a game-deciding moment — nothing like last year’s blatant Nickell Robey-Coleman violation that everyone on the planet but the officials on the field recognized.

But the end result is the same for the Saints. More playoff pain and a stellar regular season with an unsatisfying end result.

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