Rams win a wild NFC Championship over Saints in overtime
The Rams escaped New Orleans with a victory and a trip to the Super Bowl after winning the NFC Championship, 26-23, in overtime. The Los Angeles Rams are headed to Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII after beating the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship on Sunday, 26-23. It was a close game that went to overtime, and one that was marred by poor decision-making (for both teams) and poor officiating. New Orleans got out to an early 13-0 lead thanks to a pair of field goals and a touchdown, but the Rams quickly responded before the end of the first half, making it 13-10 going into halftime. Much of the game was a battle for field position, and the Rams frequently had to work with less as the Saints largely won that battle. But even working with that field position, the Rams kept battling back. Down three points and starting from their own 9-yard line, they drove down the field late in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 20 points apiece, giving the ball back to the Saints with five minutes left in the game. They managed to kick a field goal for the lead, but they also did a horrible job of managing the clock, and instead of giving the Rams the ball back with under a minute to go, they only took about 12 seconds off following the two-minute warning. That allowed the Rams to come back and kick a field goal to force overtime. To be fair to the Saints, there was also an incredibly bad call by the referees, who missed one of the most blatant examples pass interference I’ve personally ever seen. If they get that call, they probably kneel it out and kick a field goal as time expires. Instead, they went to overtime. In overtime, the Saints received and Brees had a pass tipped at the line before it was intercepted by John Johnson. The Rams then moved into field goal range, right on the cusp of it, and had a 57-yard attempt for Greg Zuerlein. He made it, and the Rams are going to the Super Bowl. Brees finished the game with 249 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The Saints rushed for just 48 yards as a team, with Aaron Donald, Dante Fowler and Ndamukong Suh coming up big on the defensive line. Goff finished the game with 297 yards, a touchdown and a pick. Brandin Cooks caught seven passes for 107 yards, while Todd Gurley had just four carries for 10 yards, compared to 16 carries for 44 yards for C.J. Anderson. Below, you can see the live blog from Sunday’s game in reverse order, including highlights and analysis. Rams 26, Saints 23, FINAL: The Saints start overtime from their own 26-yard line. Brees goes incomplete deep to Arnold, and the Rams are called for pass interference (make-up call?), giving the Saints 14 yards. On 1st-and-10 from the New Orleans 40, Donald blows up an Ingram run for a loss of 6 yards. Brees then has a pass tipped at the line and it’s intercepted by John Johnson! Wow! The Rams drive, and Zuerlein has to attempt a 57-yard field goal. ... It’s good! The Rams win! Saints 23, Rams 23, 0:15, 4Q: The Lutz kickoff goes for a touchback. On first down, Goff throws incomplete to Reynolds. Second down, Goff goes to Reynolds again, this time it’s caught for 19 yards. Another pass goes to Everett, but it’s incomplete. They’re at the New Orleans 49-yard line after a 7-yard completion to Cooks. On third down, Goff hits Woods for 16 yards and they’re on the New Orleans 30-yard line. The Rams spend their last timeout. Goff hits Gurley for 3 yards, then throws incomplete. They bring in Zuerlein for a 48-yard try with 19 seconds left. The Saints take a timeout prior to the snap. But if they were trying to ice it, no dice. The field goal is good and we have a tie game. The Saints kneel it out and we’re going to overtime. The Saints will receive the overtime kickoff! Saints 23, Rams 20, 1:41, 4Q: The Rams save a timeout when Brees goes incomplete to Thomas on first down instead of a run for some reason. Then the Saints have to take a timeout to avoid a delay-of-game penalty. The Saints run it for no gain and the Rams burn a timeout. On third down the Saints ... try for another pass? What a terrible decision for Sean Payton! There was definitely a missed pass interference, but still. The 31-yard field goal, though, is good, and the Rams are getting the ball back with far more time on the clock — 1:41 — than they had any right to expect to have. NO FLAG?!#LARvsNO pic.twitter.com/HxZJ7CgwSt— SB Nation (@SBNation) January 20, 2019 Saints 20, Rams 20, 1:58, 4Q: Zuerlein’s kickoff is off, and the Saints start on the 30-yard line. Brees hits Carr for 5 yards, Ingram for 3 yards, then Kamara for 8 yards to convert the third down. Ingram loses 2 yards on a run after Donald blows up the play, then Brees does what Brees does best and hits Ginn for a 43-yard reception, which takes us to the two-minute warning. TED GINN: @NFL pic.twitter.com/VXXXgbsFKj— SB Nation NFL (@SBNationNFL) January 20, 2019 Saints 20, Rams 20, 5:03, 4Q: It’s a quick 3-and-out for the Rams after a holding call on Terron Armstead pushes them back 10 yards on first down. Brees throws two incomplete passes and Kamara has a short run, leading to a Morstead punt to the Los Angeles 9-yard line. From there, Goff hits Everett for a 39-yard reception, Anderson picks up 5 yards on a run, then Goff hits Reynolds for a 33-yard reception. That puts them in field goal range, and after getting to the 1-yard line, they are called for delay of game. They settle for a 24-yard field goal from Zuerlein to tie it. Saints 20, Rams 17, 12:22, 4Q: Brees hits Smith for 10 yards, then Thomas for 9 yards. Ingram rushes for a 6-yard gain, and then with Hill in the game at quarterback, they fumble the handoff to Kamara, who manages to jump on it for no gain. Mark Barron and Aaron Donald both delivered big hits. Brees throws incomplete to Ginn on a 3rd-and-7, so Morstead punts it to the Los Angeles 13-yard line. So the Rams get the ball back, and Goff is immediately sacked for a loss of 8 yards by Cameron Jordan. Then it’s a 1-yard loss by Anderson, and Hekker has to punt it. He does, and there’s an illegal block on the Rams, so New Orleans will get the ball in Los Angeles territory. .@camjordan94 is a MONSTER pic.twitter.com/psCP78SHjl— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) January 20, 2019 Saints 20, Rams 17, 3:06, 3Q: Now in a 10-point hole, the Rams take over from their own 25-yard line. They quickly face a 3rd-and-2, and convert it with a short pass to Cooks, then Cooks catches another one for 14 yards an another first down. Davis is called for offsides, and then on 2nd-and-3, Goff hits Cooks again, this one for 25 yards. Vonn Bell tackled him, and stayed down with an injury. Reynolds gets the carry to the left side all the way to the 1-yard line. On first down, Goff fumbles and they lose 2 yards on the play. On 2nd-and-3, Anderson goes for 2 yards, so it’s 3rd-and-1. They go play action, and Tyler Higbee is uncovered. Goff finds him, and the Rams are back in business! Also, more than just the Saints fan with a strong natural whistle, there appear to be multiple fans in the crowd with whistles. That’s not good. .@Ty_Higs19 trying to quiet down the Super Dome pic.twitter.com/GvzkZ4lvV7— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) January 20, 2019 yep that's a whistle #LARvsNO pic.twitter.com/rZrpSjyHrZ— SB Nation (@SBNation) January 20, 2019 Saints 20, Rams 10, 8:34, 3Q: So New Orleans gets it at their own 39-yard line, and they immediately start picking up chunks of yardage. Kamara gets 8 and then 9 yards on receptions, Ingram rushes for 16 yards. Kamara catches two more passes for 8 and then 9 yards, and on 3rd-and-2 from the 2-yard line, Brees hits Hill for a touchdown and the Saints have a 10-point lead! Taysom Hill finally got a TD … reception: @thecheckdown pic.twitter.com/XCh5gpfGDz— SB Nation NFL (@SBNationNFL) January 20, 2019 Saints 13, Rams 10, 14:05, 3Q: It’s a quick 3-and-out for the Rams, as they lose 4 yards on a Woods reverse, followed by two incomplete passes to Woods. Hekker punts it 50 yards to the New Orleans 29-yard line and the Saints have the ball back. Saints 13, Rams 10, END 2Q: Brees hits Ginn for 6 yards, and he fumbles, but the bal goes out of bounds. They convert a 3rd-and-2 with a 5-yard run from Kamara, but then Brees is sacked by Ndamukong Suh on two consecutive plays. That brings us to the two-minute warning, and the Saints have to punt it away. The Rams take over and they quickly start moving down the field, with Reynolds catching passes for 9 and 13 yards. Then Cooks for 17 yards after a couple incomplete passes to convert a 3rd-and-10. On 1st-and-10, Goff goes back to Cooks for a 36-yard pass which puts them inside the 10-yard line. Gurley gets the carry, and he gets the 6-yard touchdown! The extra point is good and it’s a 3-point game! If Todd Gurley is on your team, let him run for TDs@thecheckdown pic.twitter.com/cELejFrD1p— SB Nation (@SBNation) January 20, 2019 Saints 13, Rams 3, 5:20 2Q: The Saints get the ball back and it’s a very quick drive — Kamara loses 2 yards, Griffin picks up 7 yards and then Brees is incomplete throwing to Kamara. Thomas Morstead punts to the Los Angeles 22-yard line. Los Angeles doesn’t do much better, as Anderson picks up 3 yards, Woods gets 6 yards and Anderson gets another 3 for a first down. But two incomplete passes and a short run leads to a Hekker punt — and this one isn’t faked. New Orleans takes over from their own 17-yard line. Saints 13, Rams 3, 9:45 2Q: After the fake punt, Goff scrambles for 7 yards, throws incomplete and then hits Everett for 11 yards. Anderson picks up 8 yards, then 2 yards, but is stopped for no gain and a Goff pass goes incomplete to Gurley. That makes it another fourth down, and Greg Zuerlein comes out for a 36-yard field goal, which he makes. The Rams are on the board! Saints 13, Rams 0, 12:09, 2Q: Oof, penalties are really hurting the Rams. That encroachment penalty was huge, and they immediately lose 5 yards due to a false start, just after C.J. Anderson had rushed for 5 yards. Anderson picks up 5 yards again on third down and they are going to punt. Or are they? As Johnny Hekker tends to do, they fake it and Hekker tosses it to Sam Shields for 12 yards and a first down! Wow, can’t believe Johnny Hekker faked it. That NEVER happens: @thecheckdown pic.twitter.com/VEvGa5tZcc— SB Nation NFL (@SBNationNFL) January 20, 2019 Saints 13, Rams 0, 1:35, 1Q: Tight end Josh Hill immediately puts the Saints into Rams territory with a 24-yard reception on first down. He leaves the game by order of the officials to get checked out for a concussion after a helmet-to-helmet hit. After two short gains, Brees hits Thomas again for 19 yards and a first down. Then they face another third down, and they don’t get it as Kamara can’t pick up the 4 yards needed (Taysom Hill was in at quarterback). On fourth down, the Saints line up like they’re going for another rush, but Michael Brockers is called for encroachment. So instead of a fourth down, the Saints have a 1st-and-5 from the 5-yard line. Brees throws to ... Garrett Griffin? That was his second NFL target, and it’s a touchdown! Just as we all expected, Garrett Griffin scores the Saints’ first TD: @NFL pic.twitter.com/JUyt0rvAxL— SB Nation NFL (@SBNationNFL) January 20, 2019 Michael Brockers, you big dummy. One play later, the Saints turned this free first down into a five-yard TD pass pic.twitter.com/gM4PWuZPfD— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) January 20, 2019 Saints 6, Rams 0, 5:26, 1Q: And we have our first punt of the game as the Rams go 3-and-out. Goff went to Robert Woods twice, once for no gain and once incomplete, and they only picked up 2 yards on a Gurley run. So possession shifts back to the Saints, who take over from their own 34-yard line. Saints 6, Rams 0, 7:06, 1Q: Rams have to start their first drive from their own 10-yard line after an illegal block in the back penalty on the kickoff. They pick up 7 yards, and then lose 4 on a Todd Gurley run. On third down, Jared Goff throws to Gurley, and the pass bounces right out of Gurley’s hands and into the waiting arms of Demario Davis! It’s an interception and the Saints are right back in the red zone! Davis was also the one to make the tackle for loss on Gurley. The Saints can’t do much with the field position, but Lutz boots a 29-yard field goal for the 6-point lead. Saints D protecting the DOME @demario__davis pic.twitter.com/qXR8BD67xS— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) January 20, 2019 Saints 3, Rams 0, 10:04, 1Q: The Saints receive the opening kickoff, and Drew Brees takes the field. The Saints faced an early 3rd-and-long situation, but Brees hit Ted Ginn for a 9-yard gain to convert. They then faced another third down, and Brees hit Alvin Kamara deep for a 21-yard gain. Kamara then had a 14-yard gain, but the drive stalled there after Arnold couldn’t secure a catch in the end zone. They settle for 3 points with a 37-yard Will Lutz field goal. .@DrewBrees floats it perfectly to @a_kamara6 for 21 yards! #HomeInTheDome: #LARvsNO on FOX pic.twitter.com/mpENX9xtHN— NFL (@NFL) January 20, 2019 3:00 p.m.: Hello! We’re here for Rams vs. Saints in the NFC Championship, and we’ll have a running live blog of the action, including highlights, top plays and more. Below, you can find all the viewing information and everything else you need to watch the game. Kickoff is set for shortly after 3:05 p.m.! The top two seeds in either conference will meet in the AFC and NFC Championship games on Sunday, beginning with the latter, a showdown between the top-seeded New Orleans Saints and second-seeded Los Angeles Rams at the Superdome. The game is set to begin at 3:05 p.m. ET on FOX (live streaming via FuboTV, FOX Sports GO). The Rams finished the regular season at 13-3, with one of their few losses coming to the Saints in an offensive showdown in New Orleans. The Saints won that meeting, 45-35, handing the Rams their first loss of the season. Jared Goff threw for three touchdowns and nearly 400 yards, but also had an interception, while Todd Gurley was limited to 68 yards rushing. New Orleans managed 141 yards of rushing as a team, while Drew Brees threw for 346 yards and four touchdowns. Neither quarterback was sacked in the outing. Saints receiver Michael Thomas dominated the game, with 12 receptions for 211 yards and a touchdown. Both teams had a bye in the wild card round, and handled their opponents in the divisional round, though both games were close in their own way. The Saints only put up 20 points against the Eagles, and had to come from behind to get the victory as the Eagles fell apart in the second half. The Cowboys kept it close with a late rally against the Rams, but Los Angeles managed a touchdown in the fourth quarter to keep the game out of reach as Dallas scored late and tried to make something happen. But the Rams got out of there with a 30-22 win. Both games were quite a bit closer than most predicted, and the week of rest from the wild card round shouldn’t play too much of a factor here after such a hard-fought divisional round. Below, you can find all you need to know to watch the action on Sunday. Time, TV, and streaming info Time: 3:05 p.m. ET Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La. TV: FOX Streaming: FuboTV, FOX Sports GO Odds: The Saints opened as 3-point favorites, making the Rams the underdog, but just barely, according to OddsShark. Rams vs. Saints news The Rams are as healthy as can be going into the NFC Championship, as they listed no players on their final injury report for Sunday’s game. The Saints, on the other hand, will be without Benjamin Watson and Keith Kirkwood, and listed three others on their injury report, all of whom are offensive linemen. For Los Angeles, it won’t be about riding one or two players to the Super Bowl. They’re fully into the “we, not me” attitude. Michael Thomas is, more than anything, in the zone. He’s playing the best football of his career by far and will be extremely difficult to stop for the Rams. Be sure to peep the Turf Show Times Q&A with the folks at Canal Street Chronicles, and of course, the reverse post on the latter blog. Speaking of Turf Show Times, they have five Saints players to watch, win-loss predictions by their staff and bold predictions by their staff. And speaking of Canal Street Chronicles, be sure to peep their latest preview podcast, a preview of the Saints offense vs. the Rams defense, some conference championship picks and their own bold predictions. Saints fans should be worried about the offensive struggles they faced in the divisional round. Rams fans are the only ones who should be worried about the Saints offense. Drew Brees will make you pay. This is just a fact of life. Rams vs. Saints prediction Of the six SB Nation NFL experts picking the conference championships, only two think the Rams can come out on top. That leaves four picking New Orleans, and they’re joined by the OddsShark computer. The coin flip landed on Los Angeles.
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