The last time the Saints hosted an NFC Championship Game, an interception in overtime helped send them to the Super Bowl.
Sunday’s game against the Rams also went to overtime and also featured an interception in the extra period, but it didn’t work out well for the home team this time. Dante Fowler hit Drew Brees as he tried a pass to Michael Thomas on the opening possession of overtime and safety John Johnson caught it while falling on his back near midfield to set the Rams up in prime field position.
Jared Goff avoided pressure to complete a couple of passes to tight end Tyler Higbee and set up a 57-yard field goal try for Greg Zuerlein. Zuerlein tied the game with a 48-yard kick at the end of regulation and sent the Rams to the Super Bowl as 26-23 winners with his overtime kick.
The win came without much help from Todd Gurley, who only ran the ball once after halftime and his physical condition will be a talking point after the game. So will Sean McVay’s decision not to go for a touchdown with five minutes left in the fourth quarter, although winning may mean both those things may be muted in the immediate aftermath of the game.
A bigger talking point in New Orleans is likely to be the no-call by officials when Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman made early contact with wide receiver Tommylee Lewis on a third down play late in the fourth quarter. The Saints went up 23-20 with a field goal on the next play, but a penalty would have likely left the Rams with no time left to send the game into overtime.
McVay’s decision to call a fake punt with the team down 13-0 in the first half may get lost in everything else that happened, but pulling it off led to a field goal that seemed to steady the Rams after a dreadful start. The defense was much stronger over the rest of the first half and they gave the Rams offense enough time to find its way into the game. That overall performance may not draw the same attention as the Robey-Coleman play, but the Saints still had chances to win the game and the Rams defense made sure that didn’t happen in overtime.
As a result, they will now try to bring the franchise its second Super Bowl title in a couple of weeks.