Black Quarterback: 2019 Conference Championship Review
By Brandon Simmons
Rams Escape the New Orleans with a Win
The Los Angeles Rams are heading to the Super Bowl in a very controversial manner. They beat the New Orleans Saints 26-23 on a 57 yard field goal in overtime, but the route they took to get there, was driven by a missed pass interference call. However, that was not the only controversial move within this game. The Rams decided to keep running back Todd Gurley on the sideline most of the game in favor of running back C.J. Anderson. Still, they had a little bit of help on the way ad the Saints really could not put the game away at any point in the 2nd half.
The Rams won this game because they hung around long enough for that opportunity. Los Angeles fell into a 13-3 hole in the first half, but things picked up right before the half. Rams QB Jared Goff launched a 36 yard bomb to receiver Brandin Cooks to the Saints’ 6 yard line. That set up a 6 yard touchdown run by Todd Gurley. The Saints came back in the 3rd and scored a touchdown but, the Rams answered with their own TD. The next two New Orleans drives resulted in punts, which gave Los Angeles life. L.A. answered with a 33 yard catch and run by wide receiver Josh Reynolds, which set up the game tying field goal. The Saints marched down into the red zone, when Brees threw a pass to receiver TommyLee Lewis but he was hit by Rams cornerback Mickell Roby-Coleman before the ball came; however no pass interference was called. Both teams exchanged field goals to force overtime. In overtime, Brees was intercepted by Rams safety Josh Johnson, which set up the game winning field goal for Los Angeles.
The Rams defense deserve quite a bit of credit for this win. In the first half, right before they got the ball in the 2 minute warning, L.A. defensive tackle N’Damokung Suh sacked Brees twice. This unit was able to hold the Saints’ offense to mostly field goals. Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas was held to only 4 catches for 36 yards. And while Johnson did make the interception on overtime, linebacker Dante Fowler created the awkward toss as Brees was trying to get rid of the pass to avoid being sacked.
It’s okay if the result of this game is as much about the events that led to it as well as one missed call. All the work the Rams put in up to that point, afforded them to be in that opportunity. The Saints were up by 10 points, late in the 2nd half but failed to turn 2 drives into any scoring. It just so happens, that when the no-call happened, New Orleans was in dire need for a score since they would not have a large enough lead to close the game out once they kick the FG. But it should not overshadow that Rams kept applying pressure most of the game and it paid off at the right time.
Patriots vs. Chiefs
The New England Patriots eliminated the Kansas City Chiefs in a wild late game exchange of scoring. It was a display of the past/present of quarterbacks taking on the future QB’s. In fact, without either one of these signal callers playing at a high level, there teams would be soaking in tears much earlier than the overtime period they both fought for. Just like in the last game, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes put the team on his back in the 2nd half to keep them in the game after a huge deficit. Also, just like the first game, Patriots quarterback showed you why he is an all time great at his position and why New England will remain one of the toughest teams in the league.
The Patriots were on the attack out the gate. They opened the game with a 8 minute touchdown drive. After that, things got quiet for them offensively, but the defense was putting in the work. They continued to pressure Mahomes and held Kansas City to a scoreless first half. Things began to heat up for them late in the 4th quarter. Earlier in the period, the Patriots were stopped on 4th and 1 but the defense forced a 3 and out on the Chiefs. However, New England came back but Brady threw an interception which led to a touchdown and it put them down 21-17. The Patriots took the field again as Brady led another touchdown drive to go up 24-21. The Chiefs answer back with their own TD drive which put them up 28-24 with 2:03 left in the game. Brady is back on the field, again, leading the Patriots to another touchdown, a 4 yard run buy Rex Burkhead to put them up 31-28. The Chiefs somehow get the ball back with 39 seconds left and tie the game up. But once again, Brady gets the ball in overtime and leads his team to another touchdown run by Burkhead.
It’s hard to pick at the Chiefs’ miscues when they had an amazing game in the 2nd half. Kansas City came out in the 2nd half and showed off the explosiveness they were known for all year. On 3rd and 2, Mahomes launches a 54 yard pass to Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins, which set up a 12 yard touchdown pass to Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. At the top of the 4th quarter, Chiefs running back Damien Williams punches it in for 1 yard score to make the score 17-14 Patriots. It’s hard to leave out the defense in this 2nd half as well. They stopped the Patriots on a crucial 4th and 1 in their territory. On the next Chiefs defensive possession, they intercept Brady; then the offense comes out scores a touchdown on a screen pass to Damien Williams. The next possession the Chiefs offense takes, Mahomes throws a strike to receiver Sammy Watkins to set up a 2 yard touchdown run before the 2 minute warning. After the Patriots score, they get the ball to tie the game at 31 but do not receive it in overtime since a touchdown was scored.
Their biggest miscue probably showed on that drive: fatigue. New England had a time of possession of 43:59, compared to the Chiefs’ 20:53. There were some explosive moments with Kansas City but they also had some moments where the New England defense was getting them off the field fairly quick. With those two things combined, you are going to get a tiresome defense when it comes to crunch time late in the 4th quarter.
However, Tom Brady was still Tom Brady and that was a factor in this game. His leadership and poise in the final moments of a big game, is something that people can only dream of for their quarterbacks. His stat line was not anything to write home about – 30/46 for 348 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions – but he has been around tis game long enough to make the right play. That throw to Gronkowski at the end of the 4th quarter was dynamic. Not only that, they ran the ball in for that touchdown, as they have done 2 other times in this game on a goal-to-go situation.
For all that’s been said about Brady, Belichick and the Patriots, they are still an established team that very few have the honor of knocking out in the playoffs and this game reassured that. The Chiefs threw everything they had at the Patriots and New England still pressed on to win the game. People will argue they got off with penalties, but lucky breaks are apart of the game. It’s just unfortunate when it happens to teams we don’t like. Kansas City had explosive plays that got them points, and big plays on defense to put the ball in their quarterback’s hands; but New England and their experienced veterans took the game over and found ways to win despite any setbacks.
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