Terrible no-call, Goff shines – three takeaways from Rams' win over Saints
Jared Goff played like a veteran, Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh were almost unstoppable, but in the end, the biggest play in the NFC championship game was an official's no-call.
The Los Angeles Rams' 26-23 victory in overtime over the Saints in New Orleans sends them onto the Super Bowl to face the winner of the Kansas City Chiefs-New England Patriots AFC championship game.
It will be the franchise's fourth Super Bowl appearance.
The horrendous missed call aside, the Rams offense stepped up big in a hostile environment, and the defense hounded Drew Brees much of the day, and intercepted him in overtime to set up Greg Zuerlein's game-winning 57-yard field goal.
Terrible officiating no-call cost Saints game
It is already being called by some the worst no-call in NFL history.
With the Saints trying to pick up a first down and run the clock out late in regulation, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman tackled Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis along the sideline well before Brees' pass arrived. It should have been pass interference that would have given the Saints a first down and allowed them to run out the clock before kicking the game winner. Instead, the Rams stopped the Saints, who kicked a field goal. Los Angeles then answered with a field goal to send the game into overtime.
This was not a borderline, judgment call. This was a blatant pass interference, and a terrible no-call by the officiating crew. Fans will be talking about this call for years. Saints fans will never forget it.
Ironically, Rams fans had started a petition last week asking the NFL to remove the officiating crew from the game because they had made unfavourable calls against Los Angeles in past games.
Superdome noise bothered Rams early, but they adjusted well
Before the game, some analysts thought the Superdome noise level would be a non-issue, given the Rams racked up 35 points and Goff threw for almost 400 yards when the two teams met earlier this season in New Orleans.
But the raucous Saints fans bothered the Rams offense in the first half. Goff had problems with his helmet radio early, and he later could be seen struggling to hear the play calls come in. His team-mates could be seen leaning forward in the huddle to hear Goff's calls. For most of the first half, the Rams' biggest play from scrimmage was a 12-yard pass from Johnny Hekker on a fake punt. But late in the first half, the Rams offense came alive, with Goff leading a touchdown drive. Then, in the third quarter, the Rams put together a 10-play, 75-yard drive ending in a short touchdown pass to Tyler Higbee. Goff completed all six of his passes on the drive, seemingly with ease. He seemed to gain confidence and had greater accuracy as the game went on.
Goff hit 25-of-40 attempts for 297 yards, and time after time quietened the crowd late in the game. It was a clutch performance by the young quarterback.
Rams need a healthy Todd Gurley
Gurley hurt his left knee in the season opener and aggravated the injury in week 15, missing two games and a number of practices late in the season. He was ineffective against the Saints. He muffed a short pass on the opening drive that was picked off by the Saints, who went on to pick up a field goal. In the second quarter, Gurley dropped another pass in the red zone that brought up fourth down. Gurley spent much of the game on the bench, gaining only 10 yards on four carries, one of them a short touchdown run.
C.J. Anderson performed reasonably well in Gurley's place (16 carries for 44 yards), but Gurley has been the workhorse of the Rams' offense the past couple of years, not just running the ball but in the passing game as well. There were reports during the game that there was nothing wrong physically with Gurley. Yet something kept him as a spectator for most of the game. The Rams need him fully healthy for the Super Bowl.
"I expect Todd to have a helluva game in the Super Bowl," Goff told Fox Sports after the game.