clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Beignets and Café au lait: NFC Championship Game Edition

New, comments

The Saints left the door ajar for the thieves...but they were blatantly robbed

NFL: NFC Championship Game-Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints
Yet, the referees “didn’t see it.”
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning Y’all

As always, for our novice readers or non-New Orleanians, welcome!

Let’s start with some definitions:

Beignets (English: /bɛnˈjeɪ/; French: [bɛɲɛ], ben-YAY literally bump) are distinctly New Orleans, a delicacy intimately connected to the city’s rich French heritage. Best enjoyed heavily powdered with sugar.

Café au lait (/ˌkæfeɪ oʊ ˈleɪ, kæˌfeɪ, kə-/; French: [kafe olɛ]; French for “coffee with milk”) is a delicious New Orleans way to start your day.

This is your “After-Saints-Game” breakfast, where we talk about the state of the Black and Gold, we debate the goings-on in the NFC South, and paint the playoff picture in the NFC up to this point of the season. So, sit back, take a bite and a sip while your brain slowly wakes up, and let’s catch up on some football.

*

What Just Happened?

  • The Saints’ season came to a bitter end yesterday afternoon in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in a hard-fought 26-23 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. With 1:58 left in the game, New Orleans had a 1st-and-10 at the Rams’ 13-yard line following a Ted Ginn Jr. 43-yard reception. With Los Angeles having only two timeouts, it figured that New Orleans would run the ball twice, force the Rams to use their remaining timeouts and on third down, decide whether to eat up more clock and kick a go-ahead field goal.

  • Instead, in typical Sean Payton fashion, the Saints went for the kill: a first down pass to Michael Thomas fell incomplete, stopping the clock at 1:55. A toss run to Alvin Kamara gained no yards and the Rams took a timeout with 1:49 left on the clock. Then on third down, Drew Brees dropped back and threw towards Tommylee Lewis: Lewis got hit in the head by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, who arrived before the ball. That is not one, but two penalties on that one play: no flag and the clock stopped at 1:41.

  • The flag would’ve given the Saints the ball at Los Angeles’ 6-yard line, 1st-and-goal with the Rams having only one timeout left. Needless to say, that the game would have likely been over at that point, with New Orleans having the ability to run out the clock and kick a field goal. But the non-call left the Saints with only one option: kick the field goal and hope your defense can make a stop.

  • The Saints’ defense made a stop, but not a complete one. Los Angeles was able to drive 45 yards from their own 25 in 1:26 to attempt a 48-yard field goal, which Greg Zuerlein converted, sending the game to overtime.

  • In overtime, the Saints had yet another chance on offense, winning the toss and starting at their own 30-yard line. Unfortunately for New Orleans, a hit by Dante Fowler Jr. on Drew Brees who was trying to connect with Michael Thomas was intercepted by strong safety John Johnson at Los Angeles’ 46-yard line.

  • Once again, the Saints’ defense had a chance to make a complete stop. In truth, they did: New Orleans gave up only 15 yards, but the Saints’ 39-yard line would prove enough, has Greg Zuerlein would make a 57-yard field goal to send the Rams to Super Bowl LIII

*

Five Numbers...That Don’t Lie

  • 116.7: The passer rating for Rams punter Johnny Hekker, who went 1-for-1 passing for 12 yards on the day. Hekker, humorously had the highest passer rating in the game via a pass that gave the Rams a much-needed momentum boost. Down 13-0, and facing a 4th-and-5 at their own 30-yard line, Los Angeles was lined up to punt the ball again when Hekker found Sam Shields for a 12-yard fake punt pass for a first down. The Rams would go on to score a field goal on that possession, but from that point on, they started trading punches with the Saints.

  • 48: The Saints total rushing yards on Sunday. New Orleans could not find any semblance of balance against the Rams yesterday, as the team rushed for 2.3 yards-per-carry on 21 attempts. Brees had to attempt 40 passes (same as Goff) because both teams were very good at stopping the run.

  • 44. The number of rushing yards recorded by Rams’ running back C.J. Anderson on 16 carries. You remember how Anderson was deemed the second coming of Eric Dickerson prior to the game? The running back came back down to earth in the NFC title game, as he averaged only 2.8 yards-per-carry for the game. The Saints now have not allowed a 100-yard rusher since November 19, 2017 when Samaje Perine of the Washington Redskins had 117 yards in a week 11 contest. This defense made an incredible leap the past two years. Let’s hope this upward defensive trend continues.

  • 3: The number of NFC Championship Games the Saints have played in. Following yesterday’s loss to the Rams, the Saints are now 1-2 in NFC title games, all under Sean Payton. For the past two seasons, the Saints have advanced to the divisional round and to the championship round respectively. Here’s to hoping that next year will be the one when they return to the big dance and win it.

  • 1: The number of playoff losses at home for the Saints under Sean Payton. New Orleans is now 6-1 in the Superdome under Payton in the postseason. They were likely one egregious non-call away from 7-0.

*

Beignets and Café au Lait Awards

  • Fresh Beignets with Hot Coffee: The Who Dat Nation. For the third time this season on “Beignets and Café au lait”, I want to congratulate the fans in the Superdome. But also, Saints fans everywhere. Our team had an outstanding season, and we rocked the dome and opponents who set foot in it. The Saints may have fallen short of our collective Super Bowl dream, but what a ride it was. Can’t wait for next season!

  • Stale Beignets with Day-old Coffee: The referee who was too chicken to throw a flag. Yes, I truly believe that a game is never won or lost on just one play or call. But it also depends on the play or call. When Tommylee Lewis was oh so blatantly interfered with, with less than two minutes left in the game, making the correct pass interference or personal foul call would have required a lot of guts. This was basically the game. This was it. But the referee (who I believe saw the play) was afraid. Afraid to change the course of the game, afraid to have “too much” influence on the game, afraid to become the goat (in the negative meaning of it). This is akin to referees completely disregarding big calls in the last two minutes of a basketball game. It is cowardly. That referee potentially negatively changed Drew Brees’ legacy. He potentially negatively changed Sean Payton’s legacy. He potentially changed Sean McVay and Jared Goff’s legacy (to the benefit of the latter two). He had a job to do, and he failed. Yes, the Saints had several opportunities to win the game, but that one call would have ended it, for all intents and purposes. And one referee was too much of a coward to throw his flag.

*

What’s Next?

  • The Saints’ season done, New Orleans will now turn its eye to the 2019 NFL draft. It is almost strange to think that a team that was one game away from the Super Bowl could need to get better, but when you look closely, New Orleans also had some subtle weaknesses that probably led to the Rams even having a chance to be in the game yesterday.

Here are some of the team’s needs this offseason:

  • Wide Receiver: Despite a dynamite season and falling just short of the Super Bowl, the Saints have some serious needs to improve their team, and the first glaring one is at wide receiver: Michael Thomas is all-world, but yesterday with the Rams doubling him every single play, the Saints’ amazing pass-catcher had only 4 receptions on 7 targets for 36 yards. Thomas sorely needs another top-flight wide receiver across from him. The current corps made of Ted Ginn Jr., Keith Kirkwood and Tre’Quan Smith simply is not enough to truly keep defenses honest.

  • Tight end: With veteran tight end Benjamin Watson retiring, it has been a while since New Orleans had a bona fide tight end. The current crop of Dan Arnold, Josh Hill and Garrett Griffin would probably not start anywhere else in the NFL.

  • Offensive Line: The Saints need better depth at the position. The starting five is outstanding, although center Max Unger is getting a bit long in the tooth. Also, injuries have shown that this unit is more than crucial for the Saints success.

  • Defensive End: Rookie Marcus Davenport showed flashes, but eventually he showed his youth against veteran offensive linemen. Davenport has to improve, but the Saints will likely look to bolster the position across from Cameron Jordan. Yesterday the Saints constantly had to resort to blitzing to put even the slightest amount of pressure on Jared Goff.

  • Cornerback: With Marshon Lattimore and Eli Apple, the Saints have two starting caliber cover corners. However, depth at the position is always a must. P.J. Williams is not exactly a world beater and neither is Patrick Robinson, even before getting hurt.

  • These are just some of the key positions that the Saints could address during the offseason. We will dive deeper in this topic as the offseason progresses.

Epilogue

The Saints had an amazing year, and fell just short of their goal of winning a second Super Bowl in franchise history. As disappointing as this outcome is, there are always 31 teams that are left at the altar at the end of any NFL season. It is indeed heartbreaking to lose the way New Orleans has lost the past two seasons in the playoffs, but that is why we love sports and why we will come back and watch again in 2019: for the thrill, the joy, and yes sometimes, the heartbreak.

Who Dat!

Poll

With the season over, how do you rate the 2018 Saints’ year?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    It was a great success! Can’t win them all
    (97 votes)
  • 21%
    Huge failure, it was Super Bowl or bust!
    (171 votes)
  • 21%
    Mixed emotions: I thought this was our year.
    (166 votes)
  • 39%
    One referee screwed my entire offseason
    (306 votes)
  • 5%
    I am 10 cheeseburgers in, I’ll answer later
    (42 votes)
782 votes total Vote Now