League admits to officiating miscues

NEW ORLEANS -- The NFL has informed Saints coaches that
officials made three critical incorrect calls -- all costly to the
Saints -- in New Orleans' 23-20 overtime loss to Carolina last

The first blown call would have, if correct, given the Saints a
2-0 lead. On Carolina's first possession, Jake Delhomme threw a
backhanded pass out of his own end zone as he was being brought

Referee Mike Carey, the crew chief, initially threw a flag, but
then picked it up, ruling that an eligible receiver was in the
vicinity. In a post-game report, officials admitted there was no
eligible receiver in the area of the incompletion and the play
should have resulted in a safety.

The next mistake led directly to a Panthers go-ahead touchdown
late in the fourth quarter. Saints cornerback Fred Thomas was
called for defensive pass interference against Walter Young on the
play, but officials admitted that Young initiated the contact by
pulling Thomas' helmet. Instead of a first-and-goal at the Saints'
18, the Panthers had a first-and-goal at the 1. On the next play,
Stephen Davis scored the go-ahead touchdown.

Then in overtime, officials said Panthers linebacker Lester Townes should have been called for defensive holding when he
tackled running back Deuce McAllister in pass coverage on the
Saints' second play of overtime. No penalty was called, and
quarterback Aaron Brooks scrambled for a 2-yard gain. The
infraction would have given the Saints an automatic first down at
the Carolina 38-yard line. Instead, they faced a third-and-5 at the
Carolina 41. New Orleans reached the 37 on third down but failed to
convert a fourth-and-1, setting up Carolina's winning drive.

After last Sunday's game, several Saints players complained
about the non-call against Townes.

"Sometimes that happens," McAllister said. "We'll probably
get an apology this week, but that doesn't help our record."