It’s taken me a few days and a few attempts to write this one…
A tough pill to swallow. A really tough pill to swallow. Worse than last year, worse than previous playoff games before it. A horrible, horrible way to end the season for the Saints. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this, if the Saints just lose without the non-penalty call I can get over it easier but it happened and everyone has to live with it. Hello darkness my old friend.
Let’s start with that call before going in to the rest of the game. 3rd and 10, 13 yards out, 1.49ish on the clock. Brees throws towards Tommy-Lee Lewis, the catch will all but end the game with the clock being run down and the field goal kicked for sweet, sweet victory. Rams defender Nick Robey-Coleman runs towards TLL as the ball is in the air, connects helmet to helmet with Lewis and knocks him down before the ball arrives. Tommy-Lee Lewis is defenseless, hit on the helmet and given no possible way to catch the ball, the refs keep the flags in their pockets. Uproar in the dome, boos rings around, Sean Payton goes crazy. The Saints take the lead with the FG, then the rest is history. Horrific no call by the refs, now the league admit they were wrong without an official statement by anyone, Robey-Coleman admits he was playing the man saving the TD, all of this doesn’t change the result of the game. Tough pill to swallow. There was a game too, see below.
The Saints started well, really well taking a 13-0 lead in the first quarter after 2 Will Lutz field goals and a Touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Garrett Griffin, his first as a Saint. It was a nice feeling, the offense looked good but not lethal, the defense really showed up and Demario Davis got a big time interception on the Rams first drive, the Saints couldn’t make it 7 and settled for their 2nd FG on a short field. Things seemed very comfortable although a lack of a running game was a concern for the Saints. The D was playing out of its skin and the majority in the superdome were hoping for more of the same.
It was the opposite of the Eagles game after that, the Saints never got rolling properly only getting 10 points for the rest of the game.
The second quarter started with the Rams getting on the board, a good hold by the Saints defense in the end after they had earlier forced a 4th down conversion with the Punter throwing a pass on 4th and 5. As soon as they lined up I called watch the fake, the Saints defense didn’t watch it well enough allowing the drive to be extended and some momentum swing in the Rams favour. 3 points was an okay result for the Saints in the circumstances but it should have been 0 and another possible turnover by the Saints on downs. The Saints offense didn’t really get going until the half with the Rams scoring on a 6 yard Todd Gurley touchdown to end the half. The key plays being two Goff passes to former Saints Brandin Cooks for 17 and 36 yards respectively. Momentum well and truly swung, 13-10 with the Rams possession to start the 2nd half.
The start of the 2nd half was a good one for the Saints forcing a 3-and-out straight away. Alex Okafor read an end around perfectly to get to Robert Woods and cause a loss of yardage being the key play. Then the Saints got back their momentum, using Kamara to their great advantage the Saints went 71 yards and got their 2 score lead back. A classic Saints drive of passes mixed with runs, short gains, longer gains, Kamara and Brees at the centre of it all, beautiful. A QB to QB pass from Brees to Taysom Hill was the end result, 20-10 Saints.
LA came straight back with 7 of their own with a 10 play 75 yard drive, ending in a 1 yard pass to Tyler Higbee who was wideeee open but they Saints had to focus on defending the run in this situation so you can’t blame them too much. This set the game up nicely heading into the 4th quarter at 20-17.
Exchanges of punts to start this one, before the Rams tie it up with a 24 yard field goal, originally from the 1 yard line. I was surprised the Rams weren’t aggressive as normal and go for it from there on 4th down but they took the points to tie up the game. Then that drive, that play, that turning point which everyone has talked about from every angle, every camera, every opinion point. We all know the Saints win if that’s called, no doubt, unless Lutz misses the field goal with the clock run down at 3 seconds but that ain’t happening. Even if Lutz did miss, it’s still overtime. Just a horrible, horrible non-call. The Rams drive down the field with a couple of big plays and send it to the extra period with the 48 yarder. Anyone else thought it was missing? Started out heading right but straightened up and banged through. We go to OT.
The coin toss is always crucial in the current overtime rules, ones which I don’t agree with. Each team should be allowed a possession regardless of if they score a TD or not, although it didn’t matter in this case it mattered in the AFC Championship game where the Pats scored a walk-off TD for the win without the chiefs even having the chance to reply.
The Saints won the coin toss (tails never fails, everyone knows that) and started with the ball. Drew Brees at home in a playoff game starting with the ball in overtime, surely only one outcome? Not this time I’m afraid. Only 3 plays and the ball was going back the other way after Brees was intercepted by John Johnson laying on the ground. There was pressure on Brees by Fowler and he hit Brees as he threw the ball, possible facemask/hands to the face missed here, the ball flew up and after contact with Michael Thomas Johnson completed the grab for the Rams. The Rams only needed to get to the New Orleans 39 for Greg Zuerlein to kick the 57 yard field goal and seal the win for the Los Angeles Rams on the road. Heartbreak complete.
The season was done just like that, all the talk from now until forever will be about that missed call, the chance for the Saints to return to the Superbowl and in Atlanta at the home of their biggest rivals, victory there would have been one of the best feelings ever but it was taken away by pure incompetence. Sure the Saints had a chance to win it in overtime but the game would never have got that far if the refs had just got it right. Rule changes required again, maybe more play reviews, additional challenges or coaches challenging refereeing decisions, I don’t know the answer but something has got to give.
I’m a sucker for punishment so probably will watch the Superbowl and cry into my middle of the night beer and snacks thinking about what could have been. But what I do believe is that this Saints team can get there, they have the talent, the coaching, with a few positive tweaks here and there I see no reason why the Saints can’t return to Miami and take the home the Lombardi next season. The players, coaches and fans can use this pain to inflict defeats on others next season and show that we don’t ever stop.
It’s been a hell of a season, thanks for reading, following and just being great, the Who Dat Nation really are the best fans in the game.
Until next time…