When Greg Zurlein launched a 57-yard dagger into the mojo of a raucous Superdome crowd, Rams fans in homes and bars across the country finally were able to exhale. Tears of joy gushed, while bear hugs and high fives ensued in celebrations that many will remember for the rest of their lives. But when the dust settled, and folks settled in to relive the conquest by sifting through news coverage, they were instead greeted by a national media circus that wanted to talk about one thing, and one thing only; the missed non-call when Nickell Robey-Coleman ran into Saints’ receiver Tommylee Lewis late in the game.
Standard victory Mondays usually include Pro Football Focus articles singing the praises of Aaron Donald, and a slew of other media outlets reaffirming what us more partial observers have been chanting on twitter all week. But not this time.
Following what should have been the team’s greatest triumph, we were instead greeted by a wave of outrage. That should be expected from Saints fans themselves, because well, that’s what fans do; and the play in a vacuum certainly would have helped the Saints escape with a victory. But listening to respected media members like Peter King oversimplify the an entire game by saying the, “Saints should have gone to the Super Bowl”, was a frustrating way to unpack a game. Clearly both teams got away with plenty. The Saints failed to defend a lead after the non-call, and then became the first playoff team to ever lose an overtime game after receiving. But the narrow focus was on that one, admittedly bad, non-call.
But that’s how these things work, and the snowball was, and is, rolling-hopefully resulting in better ways to review and officiate games.
But what about the players themselves? They have yet to hit media row in Atlanta, but you can bet when they do there will be plenty of questions regarding the use of replay, the non-call, and other general digs at what was a hard earned victory in hostile territory. Will the barrage get to them, or will it become bulletin board material that they will use to fuel them to a Super Bowl victory?
Well, some early returns are in, and the Rams seem to be having fun with it so far:
Michael Thomas, who had a really quiet game, was very upset, about the non-call, not about the really quiet game.
Rams rookie Trevon Young though? Not so much.
rUle 17 SeTCion 2 ARtICle 3— Trevon Young (@TreYoung35) January 21, 2019
Robey-Coleman himself, is clearly at peace with the situation, and has been downright hilarious about the whole thing.
Rams tackle Andrew Whitworth though, seemed a bit more irritated at the whole subject when he visited the Rich Eisen Show, citing how the missed facemask on Jared Goff moments before the infamous non-call had cost the Rams 4 points, and that the Saints needed to stop with the excuses.
The whole thing will eventually cycle away, but not until radio row has a few more pokes at it. By that time, we’ll see how the Rams are fielding the questions, and if Marcus Peters gets grumpy, things could really get pretty spicy.
We know that the Rams had a chip on their shoulder when they faced the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round. They said so much following the game. The offensive line resented being regarded as a question mark by certain media members, and didn’t appreciate being doubted as home favorites by many.
When Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence said he would “take Jared Goff’s soul”, it clearly didn’t sit well with the line, or even with cornerback Aqib Talib.
That game turned out be perhaps the Rams most dominant performance of the season, all things considered.
In the NFC championship, John Johnson III and Marcus Peters celebrated Johnson’s interception in overtime Choppa Style, to mock the Saints. Johnson later explained that he didn’t appreciate the Saints using the Eagles signature ski and dog masks to mock them following elimination in the previous round, so he wanted to return the favor (to the delight of Eagles fans everywhere).
So will NRCgate be a distraction or fuel come Super Bowl Sunday? If the playoffs have been any indication so far, the Rams will love being doubted, and I would suspect that the whole thing becomes an asset as the Rams will look to put it all together one more time against the New England Patriots.
Only time will tell.