NFC Championship Preview: Another Gritty Game on the Way

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) celebrates after a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

(NEW ORLEANS, La.) — The New Orleans Saints are set to take on the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game in the Mercedes Benz Superdome this Sunday. The Saints are on a very identical route they took winning there first Super Bowl 10 years ago. In the 2009-2010 season, the Saints finished 13-3 with losses to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Carolina Panthers. Fast forward to 2018-2019 and the Saints have reciprocated the same record and losing to the same opponents. The outcome for the 2009-2010 season was a Super Bowl title, and this year it’s becoming a huge possibility for adding some more hardware to the New Orleans Saints trophy case.

These two teams last matched up in week 9 of the season at the Superdome. The Saints dominated the first half of the game going up 35-17. The Rams went to the locker room and came out a new team with an adjusted game plan. The Rams came out and scored eighteen unanswered points and shutting out the Saints offense in the third quarter of play. The Saints eventually pulled away with a field goal and touchdown to seal the game at 45-35. The two quarterbacks in this game each passed for 340+ yards and 3+ touchdowns.

 

The Tale of Two Teams

Los Angeles Rams

The Los Angeles Rams come into this Conference Championship Game as the second-seed in the NFC. They finished the season out with a 13-3 record, with losses coming from Philadelphia, Chicago, and the Saints. Prior to this game, the Rams knocked out a young, raw talented Dallas Cowboy team 33-22 in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) takes the snap during the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 2017. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Rams offense this season has been evenly balanced with the run and pass game. During the regular season, the Rams averaged 421 total yards per game which was the second best in the NFL. They averaged 281 passing yards per game and 139 fishing yards per game. Both of these averages are top five in the whole entire league. Jared Goff and Brandin Cooks is a key threat in this postseason matchup to beat the saints because of the Saints weak secondary. Todd Gurley is having one of the best seasons of his young career with a solid offensive line. The Rams have the 2nd best average of rushing in this league and Gurley has proven himself as an elite running back with his best season in his young career.

The Los Angeles Rams defense may be the achilles heel of their dominant run. The defense is star studded with players like Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Dante Fowler Jr., Marcus Peters, and Aqib Talib. The defense has averaged 263 passing yards and 122 rushing yards per game. The Rams will have to play fundamental football in order to control and explosive New Orleans offense. The Rams are third in the league at forcing turnovers during the season. The Rams will show what they are really made of and hope to not repeat the last meeting with the Saints.

New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints come into this conference championship holding the #1 seed in the NFC. The Saints finished out the regular season with a 13-3 record, with losses coming from Tampa Bay, Dallas, and Carolina. Prior to this game, the Saints scraped out a tight game with the Philadelphia Eagles winning 20-14, sending the Eagles back to Philly empty-handed.

The Saints Offense has been red hot for most of their season. They averaged 379 total offensive yards per game. The Saints have also earned respect in both the rushing and passing game. They have averaged 252 passing yards and 126 rushing yards per game. With an elite quarterback in Drew Brees, the Saints have one of the most dangerous passing games. Brees’ favorite target is Michael Thomas, who had the most receptions out of any wide receiver on the Saints squad. Michael Thomas has proven himself as an elite wide receiver in the league finishing first in the league with receptions and receiving yards. The run game consists of two completely different styled running backs, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. Mark Ingram is the traditional big, stocky hard runner who has run well between the tackles throughout the season. Alvin Kamara is a quick, shifty back who can catch the ball very well and is elusive. The Saints have one of their best offensive lines in the franchise history for Drew Brees’ passing game and a diverse running scheme.

Los Angeles Rams Receiver Robert Woods is gang-tackled by multiple Saints Defenders in the Week 9 Saints Victory at the Superdome. (Photo- The Advocate)

New Orleans defense has been the back bone to this team. They finished out as the number two run defense in the league averaging 82 rushing yards per game. The secondary is the weakest point of this talented squad. They were twenty-ninth in the league, giving up 269 passing yards per game. Even with well known names in the secondary like Marshon Lattimore, Eli Apple, Vonn Bell, Marcus Williams, and Kurt Coleman, they will have to play the best football of the season to stop the passing threat brought by Jared Goff. With Sheldon Rankins out after an achilles rupture, the defensive line loses a run stopper and pass rushing big man. Demario Davis has stepped his game up during the season, increasingly getting better and better each game. With an experienced linebacker core and defensive line, the Rams will have trouble running the ball. The defense will have to play their best ball and get the fans behind them to stop this explosive Rams offense.

 

The “Domefield” Advantage

The Saints earned the number one seed in the NFC during this year’s grueling season. With this, The New Orleans Saints earned themselves home field advantage for the playoffs. The Mercedes Benz Superdome is known for the deafening screams and shouts of the diehard Saints fans, the best fans in the NFL. During the divisional round of the playoffs, there were five noise related errors tallied on the Philadelphia Eagles. The most crucial error was wide receiver Jordan Matthews dropping a perfectly placed pass right into his hands, with the pass falling right into the hands of Marshon Lattimore to put the dagger in the Eagles Super Bowl hope. The sound is intensified in the Dome with nowhere to escape. Sean Payton loved the noise in the Philadelphia game, saying it was the loudest he’s heard it, but he has high hopes and a new routine for the Los Angles Rams. “I think what’s important for our fan base is understanding when that crowd noise needs to begin differently this week than normal weeks,” Payton said. “That crowd noise needs to begin prior to 15 seconds left (on the play clock). That crowd needs to begin just as that last play finished”. The ear shattering sound has a huge impact on affecting the game and New Orleans fans are ecstatic that they can have a scheme for helping their team win.

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