RICHMOND- Conspiracy theories might have some new evidence to back up their claims of games being rigged for larger markets.
A blown call on a clear pass interference highlighted the Los Angeles Rams’ 26-23 win over the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship. The Rams will face either the Patriots or the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.
The Saints are left to wonder as to why, for the second season in a row, they ended up losing in such heartbreaking fashion, although this loss hurts worse than the Minneapolis Miracle a year before.
It doesn’t matter about the statistics, it just comes back to that call. But what was that call? Well, Los Angeles CB Nickell Robey-Coleman committed a helmet-to-helmet hit on Saints WR Tommylee Lewis well before the pass arrived.
This was on third down in the 4th quarter with time winding down. The Saints were forced to settle for Wil Lutz’s 31-yard field goal that made it 23-20 with 1:41 left in regulation.
After the no-call, Rams QB Jared Goff drove down the field and let kicker Greg Zuerlien boot a field goal to send the game to overtime.
To be fair, the Saints did get the ball to start overtime. But on that drive, QB Drew Brees was hit by Rams DE Dante Fowler Jr, causing the pass to be tossed up like a duck and be picked off by safety John Johnson III.
Zuerlein would be called on yet again to help boot a field goal and he nailed it, sending the Rams to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2001. The Saints are still looking for their first title since 2009.
This was the first home playoff loss for the Saints with Brees and coach Sean Payton, who had been 6-0 at home in the postseason since they arrived together in 2006.
Following the game, Payton said he talked to the NFL office after the game and was told that Robey-Coleman should have been flagged. They admitted that they blew the call, but that doesn’t make up for the end result and as a result, the conspiracy theories began to fly.
A replay of the blown call was shown over and over on the Superdome’s giant video boards, prompting some fans to toss trash on the field, similar to what occurred during a Browns and Jaguars game in 2001.
In that game, a bad call caused trash to be tossed on the field and sent players and officials to the locker room before the game ended. The Browns went on to win the game 15-10.
The big market of Los Angeles in the big game over the smaller New Orleans market? What makes money? Obvious. Are the Saints still cursed by Bountygate? Are the games fixed against them in the playoffs? There’s no logical proof, but theories will fly faster than pigs.
Brees finished the game at 26/40 for 249 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Running back Alvin Kamara was held to 15 yards while Mark Ingram was held to just 31 yards. Kamara led the team in receiving with 96 yards on 11 catches while Michael Thomas only had four catches for 36 yards.
These stats pale in comparison to the regular season matchup won by New Orleans earlier in the year by a score of 45-35 which ended the Rams’ perfect record at the time.
Goff led the Rams in passing at 25/40 for 297 yards and one touchdown with one interception. CJ Anderson led the Rams in rushing with 44 yards while Gurley only had 10 yards and one touchdown. Brandin Cooks led the receivers with 107 yards on seven catches with Josh Reynolds having 74 yards on 4 catches.
Defensively, DeMario Davis was a force for the Saints with 14 total tackles while Cory Littleton’s 12 tackles led the Rams. Aaron Donald had a quiet game but was still responsible for applying pressure throughout the game.
In the first quarter, the Saints looked like they were going to destroy Los Angeles from the opening tip as they went up 13-0 and scored on their first three possessions while recording a key interception.
But then, the California kids took over the Big Easy , rattling off 10 points thanks to a fake punt in the second quarter and running back Todd Gurley scored a touchdown to make it a three point deficit at the half.
From then on, the Saints and Rams engaged in a physical battle that ultimately led to the blown call and overtime where the Saints met their fate of disappointment.
The Rams, as the home team in Super Bowl LIII will wear their home jerseys against either New England or Kansas City in Atlanta on February 3rd.