"The Stack" 1-21-19
Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Roby-Coleman blatantly committed pass interference against New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis and no flag was thrown. That no-call kept the Rams in it and gave them a chance which they took full advantage of winning 26-23 to advance to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.
The Stack is back on this Monday and Super Bowl LIII is set. Surprise, surprise, the New England Patriots are in the Super Bowl. And they will be in for a rematch of a game that will take place I believe I heard CBS’ Jim Nantz say 17 years to the day as they take on the Los Angeles Rams. We have reaction to it all so let’s get right to “the stack” for today, Monday, January 21st:
Rams 26 Saints 23 (OT)
The New Orleans Saints were in control of the NFC Championship with a dominating first quarter that saw them up 13-0. It could have been more perhaps if the Los Angeles Rams defense didn’t stiffen up in the redzone and force the Saints to kick a couple of field goals. Then, with the Rams facing a 4th and 4 in their own territory, head coach Sean McVay pulled a power move and ran a fake punt with punter Johnny Hecker throwing a pass to Sam Shields for a first down. That play sparked the Rams and when halftime arrived, they trailed just 13-10.
The Saints would increase their lead to 20-10 in the third quarter when Taysom Hill caught a touchdown, but the Rams responded with a touchdown of their own and eventually tied the game up 20-20.
That’s when the drama got really juicy. Drew Brees just completed a long pass to Ted Ginn Jr. that set the Saints with a first down inside the Rams 20 yard line and inside of two minutes. First play after the two minute warning was an incomplete pass. Questionable decision. Second call was a run for no gain and the Rams called a timeout. Third and 10, Tommylee Lewis is running up the right sideline. Drew Brees throws it to him. Well before the ball arrives, Rams cornerback Nickell Roby-Coleman hit Lewis and it was a blatant pass interference. Roby-Coleman said so after the game. Had he looked for the ball he would have picked it off and maybe ran it back for a touchdown. No flag. How do you not throw a flag on that play? Saints fans are livid today and rightfully so. Head coach Sean Payton is livid today and rightfully so. Brees and the rest of the Saints players are livid and rightfully so. Kind of reminds you of some non-calls in the 2010 NFC Championship game between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints in which the Saints blatantly went after Vikings quarterback Brett Favre and hit him late and there were no penalties. Remember Bountygate? That was the game. As bad as that was, this was worse. But the play-calling also needs to be questioned. Why not run the ball on first and second down and force the Rams to use their timeouts? The Rams still had a timeout and the they were still trailing 23-20, but Jared Goff threw some nice passes and got the Rams down into field goal range where Greg “the leg” Zuerlein hit the game-tying field goal.
To overtime we went and the Saints got the ball first, but Drew Brees got hit right as he got rid of a pass and the ball floated in the air. Rams safety John Johnson III picked it off and the Rams got in position for a 57-yard field goal by Zuerlein. The snap was down and the kick was up…and it would have been good from 70 yards. Right down the middle. Rams win 26-23 and advance to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.
Again, the Saints and their fans should be ticked today. I don’t have much sympathy for them, but the right call needs to be made. Commissioner Roger Goodell does have the authority to force the two teams to go back and replay from a certain point and change the outcome of the game, but that seems highly unlikely. Something needs to change in the offseason though. Either allow coaches to challenge if there should be a penalty or not or have the central command replay center advise referees to throw the flag in certain situations. Something must change. The last time the Saints were in an NFC Championship game, 2010, they won the game on a field goal in overtime and the NFL changed that rule to say that both teams should get the ball at least once in overtime unless a touchdown is scored on the first possession in overtime. Chances are that something will change.
Patriots 37 Chiefs 31 (OT)
The New England Patriots took the opening possession of the game and took up half of the first quarter on a 15-play drive and scored a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead. They had another long drive on their second drive of the game, but on the goal line, Tom Brady threw an interception. Still 7-0. Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs though couldn’t do anything in the first half. They had just 32 yards of offense in the first half. Not on one play. Not on one drive. Not in one quarter. The entire first half. Unbelievable. Yet they only trailed 14-0 at halftime.
Second half starts and the Chiefs drive down right away in four plays and score a touchdown. Arrowhead Stadium is rocking now. The Patriots enter the fourth quarter with a 17-7 lead, but the Chiefs score quickly to cut the lead to 17-14. Patriots have the ball and are driving and go for it on 4th and 1 deep in Chiefs territory. Instead of kicking the field goal to extend the lead to six, the Patriots went for it and were stopped. Chiefs had to punt though and it looked like Julain Edelman touched the ball and the Chiefs recovered and ran it in for a touchdown. An agonizingly long replay review showed that Edelman did not touch the ball by the slimmest of margins and the Patriots would get the ball back. Two plays later, the football gods smiled on the Chiefs as a pass to Edelman went off his hands and the Chiefs picked it off. They would score a touchdown to take a 21-17 lead. The Patriots responded with a 10 play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 10-yard touchdown run on 4th and 1 by Sony Michel.
The Chiefs were not deterred. They scored a touchdown in less than a minute-and-a-half thanks in part to a pass interference penalty. The Patriots got the ball back and they regained the lead less than a minute-and-a-half later thanks to some catches that to be reviewed. There were three plays in the fourth quarter that got reviewed if I recall correctly, maybe four. All went the Patriots way, but all were the correct calls. The Chiefs had 30 seconds left to try and tie the game and they did. Mahomes was great and the game was tied 31-31 headed into overtime. The Chiefs scored 24 points in the fourth quarter alone after scoring just seven points in the first three quarters combined.
To overtime we go and the Patriots won the coin toss. Based on how both defenses were playing, whoever got the ball first was in great position to end the game. Tom Brady and the Patriots did just that. Brady was masterful on third down all night long going 13-for-19 and he was great in overtime. He faced multiple third and 10s and kept finding guys like Edelman. The Chiefs inability to get the Patriots off the field in third and longs was their downfall. The Patriots scored on a Rex Burkhead touchdown and they won 37-31. Mahomes never saw the ball. Expect another overtime rule change to at the very least be discussed, but I don’t think anything should change. If you want the ball, have your defense come up with a stop. They didn’t and the Patriots made the plays on offense. Tough loss for the Cheifs, but this win, their ninth AFC Championship win in the Brady-Bill Belichick dynasty, has to be one of the sweetest given all of the doubters out there and what they had to do to win this game. Simply outstanding.
Coming up later this week: Reaction to top stories and headlines in the sports world