Ex-Ram Tom Mack: Team got makeup non-call to advance to Super Bowl

Updated January 24, 2019 - 6:16 pm

Tom Mack still hasn’t moved.

That’s what Los Angeles Rams fans wrote on Twitter after what appeared to be blatant pass interference on Rams’ defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman went uncalled late in the fourth quarter of the NFC championship game, denying New Orleans a chip-shot field-goal attempt that surely would have put the Saints into Super Bowl LIII.

One even wrote it on Dec. 10, some six weeks before kickoff.

Who knew bitter sports memories died so hard in the City of Lights?

SHORT DESCRIPTION (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

It has been 44 years since Mack, the Hall of Fame offensive lineman, was called for illegal procedure with the Rams perched about 12 inches from the Minnesota Vikings’ goal line in the 1974 NFC title game at old Metropolitan Stadium. Had the Rams punched it in, chances were good they would have advanced to the Super Bowl against the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers.

Hall of Fame contact ensued in the end zone shadows.

The Vikings’ great defensive tackle Alan Page, No. 88, came charging across the line before the ball was snapped. Tom Mack, No. 65 and playing left guard, was whistled for a false start.

After the penalty, James Harris threw a pass that was tipped and intercepted in the end zone by Wally Hilgenberg. The Vikings then went on a 15-play drive that took almost eight minutes off the clock en route to scoring the Super Bowl-clinching touchdown.

It has been 44 years, and Tom Mack still hasn’t moved.

He said so on the telephone Tuesday from his home in Henderson.

Total (nonsense)

“It was a terrible call.”

Mack sort of laughs about it now, the only thing that has changed since that unseasonably warm December day (29 degrees) in frozen tundra land.

“The official ran in and said somebody on the inside moved, and that it must have been the guard. What kind of (nonsense) was that? This was after Alan Page jumped offside and knocked me over backwards,” Mack said. “It’s bitter memories, because poor Harris ended up throwing an interception and we ended up losing the game.”

Tom Mack, 75, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. He made the Pro Bowl 11 times, including nine straight seasons from 1967 to ‘75.

The Rams went 129-48-7 during his 12 years for a winning percentage of .720. Los Angeles won eight division titles when Mack was leading power sweeps for the likes of Les Josephson, Jim Bertelsen and Lawrence McCutcheon. They went to four NFC championship games. Mack never missed a game because of injury, and his streak of 184 consecutive appearances is third on the Rams’ all-time list behind Merlin Olsen and Jack Youngblood.

He did everything there was to do in pro football, except play in the Super Bowl.

Tom Mack insists he still didn’t move.

Rams finally get even

If you dig deep on YouTube you can find a video clip of the controversial play in a 1974 Vikings’ highlight film. It appears the tight end on the left side of the Rams’ line flinches before Page barges into Mack.

“If I remember correctly, one of the tight ends (Bob Klein or Pat Curran) did move,” said Mack, who graduated from Michigan with an engineering degree and became a lobbyist for the Bechtel Group, the country’s largest construction company, after retiring from football. “But at the time, tight ends were allowed to move and reset their position.”

Mack watched the Rams-Saints game on TV. He said he now feels vindicated, at least for old Rams’ fans.

“M-A-C-K,” wrote one on Twitter after Nickell Robey-Coleman got away with flagrant high-sticking on the near sideline.

“The breaks come and the breaks go,” the former Rams’ stalwart said with a half-sigh of resignation about not having played in the Super Bowl. “Life goes on.”

These days Mack keeps fit by playing a lot of golf. He is involved in his homeowners association at Lake Las Vegas and works as an activist on behalf of former teammates and rivals not receiving an NFL pension.

Tom Mack said next week he will be going to Atlanta for the Super Bowl, where he will tell those who remember that he still hasn’t moved.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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