Saints Drew Brees, Rams Jared Goff square off with Super Bowl berth on the line - The Washington Post Saints Drew Brees, Rams Jared Goff square off with Super Bowl berth on the line - The Washington Post

Saints' Drew Brees, Rams' Jared Goff square off with Super Bowl berth on the line - The Washington Post

20 Jan, 2019


Brace yourselves. This one could get wild. Oh, sure, the top-seeded New Orleans Saints have a big advantage over the Los Angeles Rams by virtue of playing Sundays NFC title game in the Superdome, where even the quietest moments can become earsplitting. The Saints are 13-3 at home over the last two seasons, tied for the second-best home mark in the NFL behind only the Patriots. And New Orleans has won its last seven home playoff games.

As for proof of just how crazy this one could get, look no further than the first game between these teams on Nov. 4. The Saints won that one, 45-35, handing the Rams their first loss of the season. Jared Goff and Drew Brees passed for a combined 737 yards and seven touchdowns, and the teams racked up a combined 970 yards. One unusual aspect of this game is the disparity in age of the starting quarterbacks. Brees turned 40 on Tuesday, making him 16 years older than Goff, his Rams counterpart. Brees, the MVP of the Saints Super Bowl XLIV victory, has obviously been here before. Goff, meanwhile, has appeared in just two playoff games: the Rams 26-13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons last January, and their run-heavy 30-22 win over the Dallas Cowboys last weekend.

The biggest wild card in the championship game may be the two coaches. Neither Sean McVay nor Sean Payton has met a trick play he didn't like, and both coaches made their names with offensive innovation. Its nothing thats predictable, Rams running back Todd Gurley said of McVays calls. You might think you know the play, but one week it can be this, the next week it can be something else. It doesnt matter if you know it or not. And watch for the Saints Taysom Hill, the jack-of-all-trades backup quarterback who helped key last weeks win with a successful fake punt, and nearly had a touchdown pass as well.

The Rams havent won in the Superdome since 2007 and are 0-3 in their last three visits. (Is this a good time to mention that their Greatest Show on Turf team, then based in St. Louis, fell to the Patriots 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI in the Superdome?) The Rams, who beat the Saints in L.A. last season, have the edge in the all-time series (41-34), but are only 2-3 against New Orleans since 2010. While the focus will be on the coaches and their offenses, both defenses also are littered with stars, from the Rams' defensive line (featuring Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and Ndamukong Suh) to Saints' cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Of note: New Orleans dynamic defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins was lost for the season after tearing his Achilles' tendon last week.

When/ where: 3:05 p.m. Eastern at the New Orleans Superdome. TV: Fox. Online: Live stream the game using the Fox Sports app. Announcing crew: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Erin Andrews. Odds: The Saints are favored by 3. The over /under is 56.5.

Whats next: A little thing called Super Bowl LIII. The winner plays the AFC champion, either the Patriots or Chiefs, in a game that kicks off around 6:30 p.m. Eastern on Feb. 3 in Atlantas Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Vinovich factor: The Rams are 0-8 with Bill Vinovich as the referee since early 2006, including losses to the Saints and Eagles this season. How they got here: The second-seeded Rams beat the Cowboys, 30-22, with Goff completing 15 of 28 passes for 186 yards and C.J. Anderson and Todd Gurley combining to rush for 238 yards and three touchdowns. The Saints needed a little luck to get past the Eagles, with a Nick Foles pass going through the hands of Alshon Jeffery and into the arms of Lattimore with less than 2 minutes left, preserving a 20-14 win. The Saints got 301 passing yards from Brees and a combined 124 rushing yards from Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, while Michael Thomas had 12 catches for 171 yards and a score.

Last time they met: Teams rarely meet three times in one season if theyre not in the same division, but the Rams and Saints have seen a lot of each other. New Orleans beat the Rams, 28-0, in the always-meaningless last game of the preseason. Then the Saints won, 45-35 on Nov. 4, handing the Rams their first loss of the season. In that game, Thomas caught a late 72-yard touchdown pass from Brees and celebrated by taking a cellphone from under the goal post in an homage to Joe Horns 2003 TD celebration. Brees passed for 346 yards and four touchdowns as the Saints won their seventh straight game. Kamara rushed for 82 yards and two touchdowns, catching a 16-yard pass for another TD. Goff, who passed for 391 yards and three touchdowns, rallied the Rams with 21 unanswered points, before Brees and Thomas took over.

Title game history: The Saints are playing in their third NFC title game in 13 years; they lost to the Bears in 2007 and beat the Vikings en route to their 2010 Super Bowl win. The Rams havent played in an NFC championship game since beating the Eagles to advance to the 2002 Super Bowl. Read more on the conference title games: 20 stats to know ahead of the NFLs conference championship games John Clayton: 6 things that could decide NFLs conference title games Which matchup does CBS want in the Super Bowl? It matters less than you might think. Jerry Brewer: What could top this captivating NFL season? These conference championship matchups.

Onside kicks have become almost impossible to convert. Will the NFL make a change Coach Sean Payton stays aggressive as Saints seek Super Bowl bid: Expect nothing less NFL playoffs ATS picks: Chiefs, Saints, overs are the smart plays In tragedies wake, Andy Reid and the Chiefs found success through second chances For all of their greatness, the Patriots havent won a road playoff game since 2007 Yes, the Rams C.J. Anderson is a little heavier. Its that man pregnancy weight. Super Bowl LIII planners brace for shutdown problems at Atlanta airport Dead headsets, paranoia, chasing ghosts: What its like to face Bill Belichick in playoffs Eagles Alshon Jeffery surprises second-graders who wrote him letters of support Gladys Knight will sing the national anthem before Super Bowl LIII




Source - The Washington Post



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