Three years ago the Rams finished 4-12, fired their former head coach (Jeff Fisher) midway through the season, and had a quarterback (Jared Goff) who had one of the worst seasons ever for a rookie.
If you would have asked me then where I thought the Rams would be now, I would’ve said hopefully rebuilding in the right direction. In all honesty, I would’ve just hoped that the Rams would be somewhat competitive. I never in my wildest dreams thought the Rams would be in the position they are today. Even imagining three years ago that the Rams would just be a playoff team by now seemed crazy but here we are. Sean McVay came into an organization where the future did not look so bright and turned the Rams into one of the best teams in the NFL. Now the Rams are only one win away from a super bowl appearance.
What stands in the way between the Rams and a super bowl appearance are the New Orleans Saints. The Saints are the number one seed in the NFC and will be a very tough opponent for the Rams. Coached by Sean Payton the Saints are a physical football team that plays with a ton of emotion. They have a hall of fame quarterback in Drew Brees who seems to get better with age and a ton of weapons that Brees can throw to all over the field, including Michael Thomas. The Saints have shown this year that they can not only win in a shootout but can also win ugly in low scoring games. The Saints play aggressive, they will run up the score, and they will show no mercy. The Saints play in the Superdome which year after years poses to be extremely difficult for opposing teams. The Saints fans are loud, energetic, and passionate and the Saints players thrive off of that energy. The Saints are a legitimate super bowl contender. The Saints are a threat.
The Rams faced the Saints earlier this season in November and lost 45 to 35. Coming into the game the Rams were undefeated and the “team to beat” in the NFC but the Saints did not care. The Saints got out to an early 7-0 lead in that game and did not look back as they never trailed during any point. At one point in the game the Saints were up 35-14 but the Rams were able to make a second half comeback and eventually tie it at 35-35 early in the 4th quarter. Unfortunately, the Saints secured their victory on a 72-yard TD pass from Drew Brees to Michael Thomas putting them up 45-35 late in the 4th quarter.
But that is the past. Now none of the past matters and it all comes down to one game. One game to determine which team will win the NFC and move on to the Super Bowl.
The Rams will be traveling to New Orleans for the second time this season and I can guarantee you that they will be ready. The players will go into the game knowing what to expect from the Saints crowd. Unlike the first match-up, the Rams will enter the hostile environment as underdogs who are trying to avenge a loss. However, the Rams will not let the crowd or the fans get to them. When wide receiver Robert Woods was asked about how the Superdome would affect the game he stated, “The crowd shouldn’t have an impact, and it won’t have an impact.”
When the Rams face off against the Saints on Sunday they will have two big additions from the previous meeting. Aqib Talib who missed the game due to injury and CJ Anderson who wasn’t on the Rams roster will both be active and will both have a major impact.
The veteran corner, Talib, will be relied on heavily to limit Michael Thomas. Michael Thomas tore up the Rams secondary for 12 catches and 211 yards earlier this season and Talib will do everything he can to shut Thomas down. Helping Talib limit Thomas will be the other corner, Marcus Peters, who is coming into this game very emotional and very determined. Peters did not appreciate the words that the Saints coach, Sean Payton, had to say after the Rams played the Saints. Payton said that the Saints had a match-up they really liked (Thomas vs Peters) and they exploited it. Peters has been very outspoken about his feelings for the comments Payton said and guaranteed that he would get another chance against the Saints this season. Well Marcus, now is your chance.
On the other side of the ball the Rams will have CJ Anderson who has been one of the best stories in the NFL this season. After being cut from the Panthers earlier this year, Anderson joined the Rams as a guy to help while Todd Gurley was injured. Anderson helped and then some as he ran for 299 yards in the final two regular season games and then 123 yards in the divisional round against the Cowboys. The addition of Anderson will give the Rams a dual threat rushing attack when they face the Saints this week. Despite the Rams success, they had been criticized for being too flashy of an offense but since acquiring Anderson the Rams have shown they can also win by running the ball down their opponents’ throats. Anderson and Todd Gurley ran for 238 yards against the Dallas defense and will hope to do the same against the Saints.
At the end of the day, both the Rams and Saints will be fired up and ready for this game. It’s time to put all the advanced stats, narratives, stories, and data aside and realize that this game will be won or lost on the field. It will be a war that lasts for 60 minutes and only one team will be satisfied when it concludes. The Rams and Saints have both had incredible seasons but that is now in the past and the only thing that matters is getting to the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is only one win away.
Featured Image: CBS News/ Wdef.com