We can complain about the flag not being there when Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman committed a blatant interference penalty with a helmet-to-helmet hit on New Orleans Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis well before the pass arrived inside the 5. That play forced the Saints to kick a field goal rather than seal the game by getting a first down and attempting to score a touchdown.
We can be outraged there was no foul on that play.
We can whine the Saints never had a chance to counter in overtime after the Rams kicked the game-winning field goal because of this silly overtime rule, which whoever scores first, wins.
All of this is moot. The Rams will be playing in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 after defeating the Saints 26-23 on a Greg Zuerlein’s 57-yard field goal in overtime in the NFC championship game Sunday at the Superdome. All the Saints get is a half-hearted apology by the league about getting the call wrong, which is good enough for them to get a cup of coffee rather than play in Atlanta for the Super Bowl.
Let’s not discount the Rams’ perseverance and mettle that helped them won the game. It’s a lost story because everyone is focusing on that awful call that went their way. With the lack of penalty being called, the Rams had a chance to take this game into overtime since the Saints only received a field goal out of it, and this is exactly what happened when Zuerlein kicked a 48-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining in the game.
The Rams took advantage of a new life by going to overtime and winning the game in overtime. This is where they deserve credit for that. They had to execute against an efficient Saints defense. Yes, the refs made it easy for the Rams, but there was no guarantee the players could execute.
The Rams also earned this win because they could have let this game get away from them in the first quarter. Saints quarterback Drew Brees was throwing the ball downfield against the Rams defense, but the Rams defense was good enough to limit the Saints into getting couple of field goals instead of couple of touchdowns. Saints tight end Dan Arnold was hit to the point he could not catch a catchable touchdown pass, and the Rams could not convert an interception to a touchdown in their second offensive possession.
It was right there where the Rams believed things can go right for them if they settled down. They weathered the storm well because of their defense.
Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is one of the best at running great defenses in his coaching career, and once again, he put on a great defensive game plan by making Brees look human by having his defensive line hit Brees often. It was why in the second half the Saints quarterback was more skittish than being able to throw with ease.
It’s why the Rams have a chance to win it all. We can talk about how great their offense is, and it is, but they are not in the position to go to the Super Bowl or having one of the best records in the league this year without their defense. In a league that has become offensive-oriented, there’s something to be said about defense winning championships. Offense win games, but defense can take a team to a championship level.
The Rams defense is good enough to stop the Patriots’ high-powered offense. With a good defensive line, they can sack Brady, which is the key to stopping him. Ask Brees what’s it like facing that defensive line, and his aches and bruises will say it’s not an easy day on the field.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff showed he has the chops to be a dynamic NFL quarterback. He also showed he can lead in tough times. After a rough start, he settled down in the second half, and he started to throw the ball downfield. He engineered couple of touchdown drives, and he put the Rams in the red zone to help them get much-needed field goals. It’s easy to make a case that he outplayed Brees in the second half.
Goff is only 24 years of age. His best football days are still ahead of him. He will have more good days like this. This isn’t just a quarterback who is benefiting from Sean McVay’s offense. What we saw was a quarterback who knew what he was doing in duress on Sunday.
In a hostile road environment, he aced the test, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t do the same in the Super Bowl.
Yes, the Patriots had that aura that they are invincible. After all, they had the best quarterback of all time in Tom Brady and the best head coach of all time in Bill Belichick. They are playing in the Super Bowl for the third straight season after their 37-31 overtime victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game Sunday. They are coming off their eighth straight AFC championship game appearance so the Patriots know whatever tricks teams can throw at them will not faze them.
Still, the Rams have what it takes to beat them. They have a great coach in McVay. Their defense is as good if not the best in the league. Their offense is tough enough to handle adversity.
Sunday afternoon showed why the Rams were a Super Bowl contender all year.
This should not be lost in the narrative of the Saints being screwed.