Conference Championship Game Takeaways: Brady Slightly More Unstoppable Than Mahomes, Goff Delivers, NFL’s Bad Officiating and Bad OT Rules

Also, Zuerlein’s leg becomes legendary, Mahomes and Reid get it turned around but Reid fails to defend the coin toss, Gronk emerges, a fine day for Wade Phillips, and—hopefully—the day the forces the NFL to finally modernize overtime rules and officiating in general.
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Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened on Sunday afternoon. Get the full Sunday breakdown from Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling on The Monday Morning NFL Podcast. Subscribe to The MMQB Podcasts now and it will be in your feed first thing Monday morning

Things That Made Me Giddy

Patriots Offense Near-Invincible Late: The fact that they wore down the Chiefs defense (94 plays, 45 minutes of possession) certainly helped. But the tipped interception and the great fourth-and-inches stop by K.C. were clearLY outliers. Tom Brady was surgical, the rushing attack kept things on-schedule, and it seemed there was zero chance the Chiefs defense would ever get off the field again.

Greg Zuerlein Good From 80: That’s a monster kick. That kick should be in that new Godzilla movie, the Millie Bobby Brown one they kept showing the ads for. Rarely do you have a 57-yard field goal that is a no-doubter the minute it comes off the foot, but that was it. Zuerlein delivered the game winner and, before that, the pressure-packed 47-yarder to force overtime earlier. That's a day. A kicker day.

Brady on Third-and-Long in Overtime: Julian Edelman had his way one-on-one against the Chiefs’ shaky cornerbacks, converting the first two third downs, then on the third one the safety shaded toward Edelman and Gronk delivered.

Jared Goff’s Two Overtime Bootleg Throws: One left, one right, both completions to Tyler Higbee, and both times the Saints had a free defender hanging on him. The first was an incredible arm angle to get it away, let alone put it on a moving target perfectly. The second was Russell Wilson-like, getting it off with another human being hanging on you. Those are plays that get you to the Super Bowl.

Andy Reid’s Halftime Adjustments: Zero points and 32 yards of offense in the first half, 31 points and 258 yards of offense in the second half. They started picking on that Travis Kelce-J.C. Jackson matchup, ran a couple of pick plays to torch matchup coverage, and, overall, Mahomes started hitting and there was nothing the Patriots could do. (Reid really choked on that coin flip though. That guy has never been able to defend the coin flip.)

Alvin Kamara on Cory Littleton Violence: Which isn’t really a knock on Littleton, because there are no linebackers who can cover Kamara with a two-way go. But on the Saints’ touchdown drive to start the third quarter, it was layup after layup after layup for Drew Brees, as Kamara toyed with Littleton in one-on-one matchups. For Wade Phillips, it’s the price you pay when you have to pay so much attention to Michael Thomas, though Phillips found a solution by targeting Kamara in the fourth quarter.

Tyler Higbee’s Reach Block: The tight end had to pull off an incredibly difficult block on Josh Reynolds’s third quarter, 16-yard run to the Saints’ 1, coming all the way across the formation and getting outside linebacker Alex Okafor. His block made that play. Higbee deserved to finish the drive with a TD catch three plays later.

Chiefs Pick Brady on the Goal Line: Really nice job by Reggie Ragland to read the play-action and feel Gronkowski working behind him. The Chiefs linebackers don’t make many plays, but Ragland made a big one there.

Wade Phillips Called a Very Good Game: It’s tough to see exactly what they were doing from the broadcast angle, but Phillips mixed zone, some matchup stuff and basically had 14 guys surrounding Michael Thomas at all times. And when Alvin Kamara started killing them in th ethird quarter, the Rams started targeting him. Even on the Saints’ last field-goal drive in regulation, the Saints needed a late-in-the-down play by Alvin Kamara after he fell down, and a misplay by a deep safety on the Ted Ginn catch. You can only contain the Saints in their building, and the Rams did just that.

C.J. Anderson’s Baggy, Baggy Sleeves: He already has the body type, but the sleeves really clinch the “full kit wanker who gets summoned from home to fill in for his favorite player” look.

Sam Shields on Those Fake-Punt Stop Routes: Yes, Johnny Hekker, but Shields (who, by the way, had 75 catches as a collegiate receiver at Miami) runs those routes pretty dern well.

Daniel Sorensen Doubles Down on His Annual Heroic Play: He’s usually a step late everywhere, but once a season (usually on a fourth-quarter blitz) he makes a game-changing play. On Sunday, he made two! The monster run stop behind the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-inches (with a little help from Allen Bailey clearing the way) was spectacular. And he was in the right spot for a deflected interception.

J.C. Jackson Following Travis Kelce (for a Little While): It worked pretty well early—perhaps because it was unexpected—then Kelce started eating the rookie’s lunch in the third quarter. If nothing else, that’s a heck of an assignment for a rookie corner and a pretty big statement about what Belichick and Co. think of him.

Mike Pereira’s Three-Piece Suit: Very underrated. He always looks sharp.

Hey, Andrew Whitworth’s Going to the Super Bowl!: We can all agree, that’s pretty tremendous.

Jared Goff’s Awkward Hug of Chris Meyers: A fitting end to an interview with the person acting least excited to make the Super Bowl for the first time of anyone ever.

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Regrets

Nickell Robey-Coleman Needs a Better Poker Face: When you’ve committed a blatant game-ending pass interference penalty, try not to come up frantically looking for flags without celebrating at all. The Rams very, very, very much got away with one there. No one likes when a game ends on a penalty, but this can not go uncalled. (Also, Joe Haden must have been going out of his mind watching this.)

NFL Overtime Rules: Still Stupid: They should do this in the regular season, but they should really do it in the playoffs: Overtime is untimed, teams get an equal number of possessions. Instead of doing like college football (which is stupid in its own right), you just play it out with kickoffs and punts and all the special teams stuff. It’s not difficult to determine when a team’s possession begins/ends.

LaMarcus Joyner Has to Make a Play: On the 56-yard completion to Ted Ginn, which was the play that should have decided this game. Brees hung one deep and the Rams—Joyner specifically—were ready for it. Sure, Joyner is a small DB, but Ginn isn’t exactly a contested-catch beast. If Joyner breaks it up, the Saints are facing a third-and-12 from their own 44 and the Rams have a great chance to get off the field.

Dee Ford Lined Up in the Neutral Zone: Awwwwww… don’t line up in the neutral zone! Why did you line up in the neutral zone? It was an obvious penalty, and one that didn’t really affect the interception on the other side of the field. (Still, fantastic season from Ford.)

Todd Gurley’s Hands Team Membership Card and Secret Decoder Ring—Revoked!: Two crushing drops, one that he put into the hands of the Saints to set up a short field and a free three points, and another on third down in the red zone, forcing the Rams to settle for a field goal.

‘Forcibly in the Head or Neck Area’: [audible sigh]

So… Saints Didn’t Know Rams Have Faked Some Punts?: To quote Jerry Seinfeld: “I didn’t know it was possible not to know that.”

Celebrity Big Brother Looks Great!: I’ve actually put CBS on all the TVs and devices in my home and smashed all the remotes so my family can’t change the channel. I simply cannot risk missing a minute of the CBB action. What a wonderful and creative achievement not just for the medium of television, but the human race at large.

A Soul-Crushing Series for the Chiefs: Down 7-0 in the second quarter, Patrick Mahomes finally connected with Tyreek Hill on a big play, 42 yards to the Patriots’ 23. That was followed by an incomplete pass, which was followed by Mahomes taking a 14-yard loss on a sack to push them out of field-goal range. And, for good measure, the punt was followed by a 90-yard, half-ending TD drive by Tom Brady.

I Mean, When Mahomes Takes a Sack: He really takes a sack. Losses of 14, 14 (taking them out of field-goal range) and 15 yards (due to a fumble) on the three sacks he took in the first half.

Ben Watson-Less: Sidelined by appendicitis, That’s a cruel way to end a fairly exceptional 15-year career. Someone get him to pull a Sproles and suit up for one more year. (If he wants to, that is, don’t pressure him.)

The Whistle Guy at the Superdome: Should be incarcerated in a futuristic super-max prison in the depths of the circumantarctic Southern Ocean where there is no hope for escape. But they didn’t count on an unlikely bond with the elusive colossal squid. A story of love, prison escape and annoying noises. In theaters this fall. (UPDATE: Apparently that’s a real guy who makes that noise sans device. This movie keeps getting better.)

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Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About

Edelman Didn’t Touch It, However: Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is an unfathomably boneheaded play by a veteran player—it’s not like he was trying to get out of the way of the ball, he tried 100% to field it and, in an incredible stroke of luck, whiffed 100%. Under a just god, this is a turnover.

As Impressive As 1-Yard TD Passes Get:

Gronk Over Eric Berry: Two juggernauts who aren’t what they were when they met in the 2017 season opener. Berry got the better of Gronk that night. Gronk got the better of Berry on this play, setting up the go-ahead (and almost game-winning) TD in the final minute.

The Slapstick Comedic Stylings of the Rams’ Defensive Backfield: To be fair, this is also good offense.

Chris Hogan Gets Todd Gurley’s Spot on the Hands Team:

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What We’ll Be Talking About This Week

A Modernized Replay System Could Correct That No-Call: Everyone could immediately see it was a missed call. There’s no earthly reason New York can’t call in and correct the situation. (They also might have done so on the uncalled facemask at the end of the Rams’ previous field-goal drive that would have given L.A. a fresh set of downs at the Saints’ 1-yard line—not sure how that one was missed either.) It’s insane—with the video, replay and communication technology available in 2019 (it was also available in 2018, by the way)—that a multi-billion-dollar enterprise continues to rely almost exclusively on seven humans on the field to officiate these games in real-time.

Those Scrappy Underdog Patriots, Somehow, Find a Way: Not every feel-good story finds a happy ending, but the greatest player of all time and greatest coach of all time, supported by one of the best rosters in football in part because aforementioned GOAT quarterback is playing on a bargain contract—which he can do because he’s married to a supermodel with a nine-figure net worth—somehow find their way back to the Super Bowl, something they haven’t done since last year, and the year before, and only in four of the past five years, and only in nine of the past 18 years. “Bet Against Us,” indeed.

The Super Bowl: They're gonna play that thing again this year.

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