VIDEO: New Orleans Saints Host Los Angeles Rams In NFC Championship Game
By Alan Zlotorzynski, Senior Editor // January 20, 2019
Kickoff 3:05 p.m. ET, on Fox
ABOVE VIDEO: Rams vs. Saints NFC Championship preview. No.2 seeded Rams will travel to face the top-seeded Saints. The game will be broadcast nationally on Fox at 3:05 p.m. ET Sunday.
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA– For the second time in the past four years, the top four teams in the NFL will meet on Conference Championship Sunday.
In the AFC, the No.1 seeded Kansas City Chiefs will host, who else, the No.2 seed New England Patriots and in the NFC, the No.2 seed Los Angeles Rams will travel to face the top-seeded New Orleans Saints.
There are several intriguing aspects to these games. Each contest is a rematch of two of the better games played in the league this season and for the first time since the conference championship games were adapted in 1970, the four highest scoring teams during the regular season have reached the final four.
During the 2018 regular season, the Chiefs led the league with a scoring average of 35.3 points per game, followed by the Rams (32.9), Saints (31.5) and Patriots (27.3).
It’s up to the leagues top four teams to make this playoff season a little more compelling.
The average margin of victory during Wild Card Weekend was a little under a touchdown (5.75 points) but that doubled in the Divisional round as the top seeds entered the mix and won by an average margin of nearly two touchdowns (11.5 points)
Regular Season Contests:
ABOVE VIDEO: Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints handed the Rams their first loss of the season as the two teams combined for nearly 1,000 total yards of offense.
The Patriots and Saints each delivered the Chiefs and Rams their first losses of the season when they met back in weeks six and nine respectively.
In New Orleans in Week 9, future Hall of Fame 40-something signal-caller Drew Brees outdueled his younger counterpart, Jared Goff as the Saints knocked off the 8-0 Rams, 45-35 in the Super Dome.
Both teams scored touchdowns on each of their first two possessions and the track meet didn’t stop. Brees passed for 346 yards and four touchdowns eclipsing Goff, who totaled 391 passing yards and three touchdowns.
The Saints led 35-17 at the half but Goff led the Rams back to tie it at 35 with 21 unanswered points in less than 21 minutes. Brees and the Saints would go onto score 10-points in the games final six minutes, including 72-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Michael Thomas with 3:52 to play.
SAINTS VS RAMS:
- SERIES RECORD — Rams lead 41-34
- LAST MEETING — Saints beat Rams 45-35, Nov. 4, 2018
- LAST WEEK — Rams beat Cowboys 30-22; Saints beat Eagles 20-14
- RAMS OFFENSE — OVERALL (2), RUSH (3), PASS (5)
- RAMS DEFENSE — OVERALL (19), RUSH (23), PASS (14)
- SAINTS OFFENSE — OVERALL (8), RUSH (6), PASS (12)
- SAINTS DEFENSE — OVERALL (14), RUSH (2), PASS (29)
This game feels like a contest between two teams heading in opposite directions. The Saints haven’t appeared to be the team that looked unstoppable when they beat LA in Week 9.
Los Angeles led the NFC in total yards per game (421.1) and points per game (32.9) and ranked 3rd the in the conference in turnover differential (+11). The contest features the youngest head coach to ever win a playoff game in the Rams head coach, Sean McVay.
The New Orleans Saints have won 14 postseason games in franchise history, 13 of them have come with Sean Payton as head coach and Drew Brees at quarterback. The last time New Orleans played in the conference title game they won the Super Bowl following the 2009 season.
Last week against the defending Super Bowl champions in the Divisional round, the New Orleans Saints seemed to find a way to win after trailing 14-0 early in the game.
Following their comeback and with the lead late in the game, they needed help to finish off the champs and Eagles WR Alshon Jeffrey provided it as he let a ball slip between his hands during a drive that seemed destined to end the Saints season but instead, the interception ended any chance of Philly comeback.
The last time the Rams advanced to an NFC title game was in 2001 when they were known as ‘The Greatest Show on Turf.’
Led then by Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, the Rams set records for points scored in the league at that time and many believed this version of the Rams had a chance to be as high octane in the passing game with franchise QB Jared Goff under center.
ABOVE VIDEO: Highlights of Saints win over Eagles in NFC Divisional round.
But over the past three games, the offense has morphed into a rushing beast led by the versatility of Todd Gurley and the power of C.J.Anderson. Gurley led NFL with 21 scrimmage touchdowns and ranked fourth with 1,831 scrimmage yards in the regular season.
Last week against the Dallas Cowboys fifth-best rush defense, a defense that just the week before held the top-ranked Seattle Seahawks rushing game to a measly 73 yards, Gurley and Anderson each eclipsed 100 rushing yards becoming the first duo of running back teammates to each rush for at least 100 yards in a playoff game since the 1997 Wild Card Round when Denver’s Terrell Davis and Derek Loville did it vs the Jaguars.
The Rams 459 net yards of offense and 273 rushing yards in the Divisional Round set Rams franchise postseason records.
On defense, the Rams possess one of the best players in the league in Aaron Donald. The former University of Pittsburgh standout is a defensive tackle that hits like Dick Butkus but plays as fast as a cornerback.
ABOVE VIDEO: Last week against the Dallas Cowboys fifth-best rush defense, Gurley and Anderson each eclipsed 100 rushing yards.
Drew Brees and the Saints will need to account for Donald on every play. He led NFL with 20.5 sacks and became 11th player since 1982 with 20-plus sacks in a single season. Donald ranked first in NFL with 25 tackles for loss.
In the LA secondary, cornerback Aqib Talib has a little experience in games like this. He played in the 2012, 13, and 15 Conference Championship games with the Patriots and Broncos and was a member of the Broncos Super Bowl 50 winning team
Last week against Dalls, Talib had seven tackles and forced a fumble last week. He did not play in previous meeting
The Saints defense finished second in the NFL stopping the run this past season. However, a big part of the reason they were so successful won’t be on the field Sunday as they lost defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins to a torn Achilles tendon last Sunday.
Rankins stepped up during the 2018 season with eight quarterback sacks while also demonstrating an ability to drop into pass coverage, a rare knack for a 300-pound interior lineman.
In fact, the former Louisville star is a big reason why the Saints are playing this game at home. Rankins chased down a Pittsburgh receiver and forced a downfield fumble late in the Saints’ Dec. 23 victory over the Steelers, thereby clinching home-field advantage in the playoffs.
ABOVE VIDEO: Offensively, the Saints no longer just rely on Drew Brees to make plays. RB Alvin Kamara ranked second in the NFL with 18 scrimmage TDs (14 rushing, 4 receiving) and ranked seventh with 1,592 scrimmage yards in 2018.
Backup David Onyemata and undrafted rookie Taylor Stallworth will step in and try to replace him. It’s not all gloom and doom without Rankins. The Saints have playmakers at all three levels of their defense. Defensive end Cameron Jordan is headed to the Pro Bowl if the Saints lose. He had 12 sacks this season and will look to apply pressure on Goff in passing situations
In the middle of the defense is linebacker Demario Davis who led the team with 110 tackles and behind him is cornerback Marshon Lattimore who picked off two passes vs. the Eagles last week.
Offensively, the Saints no longer just rely on Drew Brees to make plays. RB Alvin Kamara ranked second in the NFL with 18 scrimmage TDs (14 rushing, 4 receiving) and ranked seventh with 1,592 scrimmage yards in 2018.
He had 106 scrimmage yards (71 rushing, 35 receiving) last week vs Philadelphia.
ABOVE VIDEO: Arguably the most underrated signal caller to ever play in the NFL, Brees can further add to his legacy as one of the all-time best with a win vs. the Rams.
Wide receiver Michael Thomas led NFL with 125 catches and had franchise single-season record 1,405 yards receiving, surpassing Joe Horn’s 1,399 yards in 2004.
Thomas had 12 receptions for 171 yards and a TD last week and he had 12 catches for 211 yards, including the 72-yard TD in the last meeting with Rams. With that said, if the Saints are to win this game, the headline Monday morning will likely read, Brees Leads Saints Back to Super Bowl.
Arguably the most underrated signal caller to ever play in the NFL, Brees can further add to his legacy as one of the all-time best with a win vs. the Rams. If you doubt Brees’ standing as one of the top five, six, seven or eight signal callers to ever play the game, consider the following.
Brees holds the NFL records for career pass yards, completions, career completion percentage, and is second in career passing touchdowns, 19 behind Peyton Manning.
He has passed for over 5,000 yards in a season five times—no other NFL quarterback has done so more than once. He has led the NFL in passing yards a record seven times and in passing touchdowns a record-tying four times.
He threw a TD pass in 54 consecutive games overall and 60 consecutive home games, both NFL records.
He was the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2004, the Offensive Player of the Year in 2008 and 2011, and the MVP of Super Bowl XLIV. Sports Illustrated named Brees its 2010 Sportsman of the Year and he is one of three QBs to beat all 32 teams.
There have been 84 rematches played in the playoffs between non-divisional opponent dating back to 2003. Since then, the team that won the first meeting has gone 50-34 when the team’s faceoff in the playoffs.
With that said, the Rams appear to be in a better place than do the Saints. The Rams defense shut down one of the best running backs in the NFL in Ezekial Elliott and kept the Cowboys one dimensional.
Gurley and Anderson are as much of weapon for the Rams defense as they are for the Rams offense. If the Rams can run the football half as well as they did against the Cowboys, they will advance to Super Bowl 53.
The key number today is third down and time of possession. The team that wins both of these stats wins the football game. Last week the Rams held the Cowboys to just 1-10 on third down and held the ball for over 36-minutes.
In the Rams and Saints first meeting, New Orleans was 7-10 on third down and they held the ball for 36 minutes, that has to change for the LA to advance to their first Super Bowl since 2001.
With the way Todd Gurley, C.J. Anderson, and Aaron Donald are playing, I like their chances on the road to get it done against a Saints team that seems to be running out of luck.
The NFC championship game will be broadcast nationally on Fox.
RAMS 31 SAINTS 27
CLICK HERE FOR BREVARD COUNTY NEWS