Nearly eight months after a controversial ending against New Orleans last season during the NFC Championship game, the Rams hosted the Saints for their home opener on Sunday afternoon. As if New Orleans didn’t have enough resentment towards league officials, a questionable call during Sunday’s game reignited the team’s bitterness.
The Saints came into the contest hungry for a win against L.A., especially after losing the game last year which they arguably should have won. An uncalled pass interference penalty, committed by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, a former Trojan, caused the team to settle for a field goal and ultimately lose the game in overtime.
For weeks, distraught Saints players and fans petitioned for a rematch of the NFC Championship game. While that didn’t happen, the NFL implemented a new rule that would allow teams to challenge any uncalled penalties.
With this new rule, the Saints went into Sunday’s rematch with high hopes, but the new rule wouldn’t provide them an advantage this time in a 27-9 loss to the Rams.
With just over six minutes remaining in the first half, Rams quarterback Jared Goff was hit and fumbled the ball. The fumble was recovered by New Orleans defensive end Cameron Jordan, who returned it 87 yards for what would have been a touchdown, but the officials ruled the play dead as Goff had thrown an incomplete pass.
“Normally, [the referees] let the play happen and then go back and review the play,” Jordan said in a postgame interview.
This was not the case.
Deja-vu struck the New Orleans sideline. Players were noticeably outraged over the official’s questionable decision that cost them a touchdown. Despite the call being changed to a fumble, the touchdown didn’t count as the whistle blew the play dead. Their chance for victory was once again being taken away by a debatable call.
The Rams defense came out strong on the first drive of the game with an early interception. On offense, Goff quickly found wide receiver Brandin Cooks for a 57-yard deep ball into the red zone, but the New Orleans defense held them to a field goal.
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald hit Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ hand early in the first quarter, which caused him to sit out for the remainder of the game. Back-up quarterback Teddy Bridgewater then took the reins, but his first drive resulted in a punt.
The Rams caught fire in the second half, scoring three touchdowns on their next four drives, while the Saints could only settle for field goals.
With the win, a few former Trojans took home yet another victory.
Wide receiver Robert Woods finished the game with 32 yards on two receptions, adding on nine rushing yards as well. Linebacker Clay Matthews, in his second game with the Rams, had a solid performance, tallying three tackles which included a sack and a forced fumble. Robey-Coleman, the former First-Team All-Pac-12 cornerback while at USC, finished with four tackles.
With the officials dictating another controversial decision against the Saints, it draws the question of whether or not the Rams would still be undefeated if the correct call had been made. Had Jordan’s touchdown counted, the Saints would’ve taken a 10-3 lead over the Rams with a few minutes remaining in the first half. While the outcome of the game may have been drastically different, it is hard to assume the Saints would have capitalized since the team was lost without their MVP-caliber quarterback at the helm.
The Rams remain undefeated as they travel to Cleveland next week to face the Browns on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.