Rams and Pats win in overtime and advance to Super Bowl; Saints and Chiefs eliminated
January 21, 2019
The NFL Conference Championship games didn’t disappoint. Both games went into overtime and the underdogs won in controversial fashion.
Today’s Conference Championship Games saw the Los Angeles Rams defeat the New Orleans Saints 26-23, and the New England Patriots beat the Kansas City Chiefs 37-31.
In the first match of the day, the Rams entered the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with few people picking them to win.
After a shaky first quarter, the Saints looked likely to take control of the game. But, the Rams’ fortunes seemed to turn after a fake punt throw resulted in a first down. Sean McVay’s gutsy play-calling then led to some offensive rhythm and a much-needed field goal in the second quarter. That momentum bled into the end of the second quarter, where the Rams marched up the field, capping the drive with a Todd Gurley rushing touchdown.
After the Saints scored a touchdown on their first drive of the third quarter, up 20-10, the Rams refused to go away, and scored another touchdown on the next drive shaving the deficit to three points.
With about ten minutes left in the game, the Rams scored a field goal to tie the game with five minutes remaining. On that drive, Jared Goff made a big play on 3rd and 3. Rolling out of the pocket, under pressure, the young quarterback hit tight end Gerald Everett for a 39 yard gain.
With two minutes remaining and the game tied, Drew Brees throws a 43-yard deep ball to Ted Ginn Jr., putting the Saints 10-yards out from the Rams endzone.
After a few missed opportunities, Brees drops back on 3rd and 10 and passes to receiver Tommylee Lewis, except before the pass reaches him, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman hits Lewis. To the surprise of many, the referees didn’t throw the penalty flag, and the Saints had to settle for a field goal.
Jared Goff then led the Rams down the field to set up a game-tying, 48-yard field goal. Kicker Greg Zuerlein nailed the kick with sixteen seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.
The Saints won the toss and elected to receive the ball in overtime. A few plays into the drive, Brees got hit front-on by Dante Fowler as he was throwing deep. The hit altered the trajectory of the ball, sending it high in the air for an easy John Johnson interception. Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 10)
Goff and the Rams offence only had to go 15-yards on the ensuing drive (featuring an awesome side arm throw from Goff to Tyler Higbee for a 12-yard gain), setting up a 57-yard field goal try. Clutch as ever, Zuerlein comfortably cleared the crossbar, sending the Rams to Super Bowl LIII.
The key to this game was the inability of both teams to run the ball. Brees relied heavily on Alvin Kamara in the passing game, but their lack of balance hurt their effectiveness down the stretch. Had they been able to run the ball after leading 13-0, they could’ve taken control of the tempo, and frustrated the Rams out of the game. The Rams, also unable to run the ball effectively, managed to claw their way back into the game with solid second-half defence. Jared Goff was able to make big plays throwing the ball, giving his offence life when Todd Gurley was a non-factor.
In the second game today, the Patriots travelled to Arrowhead Stadium, where the weather is cold and the fans are loud.
During the first half, the Patriots sacked Patrick Mahomes three times and kept the league’s most explosive offence scoreless. The Patriots running game was unstoppable, with Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White taking turns picking up first downs for solid gains. Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 10)
Down 14-0 coming out of the half, the Chiefs had some work to do, but considering the one-sidedness of the first half, things could’ve been worse.
Finally, on the first drive of the second half, the Chiefs got a touchdown. That drive was buoyed by a massive 54-yard deep throw from Mahomes to Sammy Watkins.
The Patriots lost some momentum after the half time break, but managed a field goal in the third quarter: 17-7.
The Chiefs responded with a 9-play drive that resulted in a touchdown: a Mahomes roll-out to the right, side-arming to Damien Williams in the end zone. With the score at 17-14, the Chiefs’ hopes elevated.
The next big moment came on a promising New England drive with nine minutes to go in the game. On fourth and inches, 25 yards out from the Chiefs end zone, the Patriots went for it. Brady handed off to Rex Burkhead up the middle, who was stopped at the line of scrimmage: turnover on downs and Chiefs ball.
On the ensuing drive, the Chiefs offence had to punt. On the punt, Patriots’ Julian Edelman let the ball bounce, but then seemed to touch the ball and muff the punt. The Chiefs ran the ball into the endzone in front of a jubilant Arrowhead fanbase. Upon further review, the referees deemed that Edelman did not touch the ball, and gave the ball back to the Patriots.
Two plays later, Brady threw an interception after a high ball bounced, ironically, off Edelman’s fingertips, into the hands of Chiefs defender, Daniel Sorensen.
The Chiefs quickly took the lead two plays later when Mahomes threw a 23-yard screen pass to Damien Williams for a touchdown.
In usual Patriots fashion, Tom Brady led his offence down the field over the course of four minutes and ten plays. Only ten yards from the endzone, the Chiefs made some key defensive plays and the Patriots once again found themselves in fourth and inches. This time, the Patriots went to an outside run, picking up the first down and the touchdown, to re-take the lead, 24-21, with three minutes and change remaining. Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 10)
At this point, both offences are in rhythm, and Patrick Mahomes leds the Chiefs to a touchdown in just a minute and a half. In a similar time frame, the Patriots respond with a touchdown of their own. The Chiefs now find themselves down three with 39 seconds remaining.
Somehow, Mahomes answers the call again. With two unbelievable 20+yard throws, the Chiefs are in field goal range. Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker slots the 39-yard field goal attempt, and for the second time today, we head to overtime.
The Patriots won the coin toss, chose to receive the ball, and drove 75-yards on 13 plays to score a touchdown and win the game. Unfortunately, Mahomes and the Chiefs offence never had the chance to possess the ball in overtime, with the methodical Patriots offence being too good in the end.
This game divulge into a shoot-out in the fourth quarter, but the Patriots ability to run the ball gave them and edge in the first half. Their defensive game plan was also superior, emphasising physicality at the line and in the secondary. They put pressure on Mahomes and his receiving group, sacrificing penalties to gain the physical edge over an offence that likes room to spread the field and use their speed. Mahomes’ freakish ability to avoid pressure and make throws on the run kept the game close, but the Patriots were the better team for most of the game.
All four teams fought hard in victory and defeat, which gave NFL fans one of the most entertaining Conference Championship rounds in history. While controversial refereeing decisions played a role in the outcome, the games were entertaining, and the victors fought hard for their well-earned place in Super Bowl LIII.