Los Angeles Rams – 26
New Orleans Saints – 23
Let’s start with the elephant in the room, shall we?
Yes, the referees missed a pretty obvious pass interference call late in regulation. Yes, the league has admitted the mistake.
No, we’re not going to see a rematch of this game to decide who actually faces the Patriots in Atlanta. The Rams won the game. They’ll be in the Super Bowl, no matter how many petitions get circulated on social media.
(Though I wouldn’t mind watching this game get played again, to be honest)
Missed calls happen in every single football game, and they affect the game just as much in the first minute as in the last. The refs also missed a blatant facemask on the Saints that would have extended a Rams drive in the red zone. So, in my mind, it’s pretty much a non-issue. The Saints had the ball first in overtime. If Drew Brees isn’t pressured/flattened in to an interception in the extra period, we probably aren’t having this conversation at all.
The competition committee will look at challenge rules, and I expect that if anything, we might see a slightly wider list of plays that can be challenged. The league has been reticent about taking the control of the game away from the on-field officials, so don’t expect to see a completely different scenario next year in terms of how officials approach the game.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way.
That was an awesome NFC Championship game.
New Orleans got the hot start, holding the Rams without so much as a first down in the opening quarter. Jared Goff threw for just twelve yards and an interception in the period. Rams rushers combined for only three yards. Goff and the Rams were flustered, overwhelmed with the noise in Mercedes-Benz stadium. They were shaken, no doubt about it. It looked like the Saints might make the game completely one-sided, but then a funny thing happened. As the Rams gave the football back time and again, the Saints failed to capitalize. Their first two drives ended in field goals, and instead of breaking the game wide open, the Saints allowed the Rams to hang in.
As the jangled nerves of the Los Angeles offense calmed, Jared Goff led his team on a seven- minute, sixty-two-yard drive that culminated in a field goal. It would be the start of a 10-0 second quarter that sent the teams to the locker room separated by only three points.
After trading touchdowns in the third quarter, the kickers took over, with Rams placekicker tying the game in the closing seconds with a forty-eight-yard effort.
I mentioned in the preview that I thought Aaron Donald would force Drew Brees to make one mistake that would turn the game. Donald was effective, making two tackles for a loss in the game, but in the end, it was Dante Fowler who came through and hit Brees on the third play of overtime. The pass sailed away from him, and John Johnson gave the Rams, who hadn’t held a lead the entire game, the chance they needed.
Two minutes, twelve seconds and a 57-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal later, the Rams were headed back to the Super Bowl for the first time since Tom Brady’s first rodeo.
Still think that the officials robbed the Saints?
I get it. Tough pill to swallow, but here’s some fun stats to help you understand that, in the end, the Rams won. And they should have.
Total Yards: Rams 378, Saints 290
Passing Yards: Rams 301, Saints 242
Rushing Yards: Rams 77, Saints 48
Yards per play: Rams 5.6, Saints 4.5
Penalties: Rams 7 penalties for 64 yards, Saints 3 penalties for 20 yards
The Rams, with Todd Gurley in a very limited role, were the better team on Sunday, it just took them a few extra minutes to prove it after the slow start.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out Tom’s other playoff recaps here
Image Source: USA Today