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Monday, January 21, 2019

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Sean McVay makes surprising decision to kick field goal on 4th and goal

Sean McVay stunned

Sean McVay made a surprising decision to opt for a field goal instead of going for a touchdown on a big 4th-and-goal play late in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

The Los Angeles Rams got into an and-goal situation with under eight minutes left in the game as they were trailing 20-17 to the New Orleans Saints. They picked up five yards on their first two plays to take the ball down to the 1-yard line. CJ Anderson was stuffed shy of the goal line on third down, leading to a big decision.

With 6:04 to go and the ball inside the 1, would the Rams opt for a field goal to tie the game at 20 or go for a touchdown?

McVay elected to kick. The Rams took a delay of game penalty, moved back five yards, and Greg Zuerlein made a short field goal to tie the game.

The lack of aggression from the Rams seemed to be more of a defensive move than an offensive one. They had a chance to go up by four points had they scored and kicked an extra point. That would have forced the Saints to score a touchdown to take the lead because a field goal would be useless. And if they didn’t get it, the Saints would be pinned at the 1.

It made too much sense, but McVay played it safe instead.

Report: Dennis Smith Jr will return to Mavericks for Tuesday’s game

Dennis Smith

The Dallas Mavericks have played the past several games without Dennis Smith Jr, but it looks like the guard will return to action for the team this week.

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle told his team at practice on Sunday that Smith will return for their game against the Clippers on Tuesday, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

Smith has not played since the team’s Jan. 7 loss to the Lakers. He has missed five games in a row — the Mavs have gone 2-3 in that span.

Smith was missing time amid trade rumors, but Carlisle and Smith apparently spoke, leading Smith to report.

Jared Goff covers ear holes on helmet with tape to block noise

Jared goff

Jared Goff had to improvise to deal with the crowd noise at the Superdome in New Orleans during Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

Goff had some audio issues with his helmet during the Los Angeles Rams’ first possession of the game, which ended with an interception. As he looked for solutions that would help him battle the audio issues, he settled on one: He covered the ear holes of his helmet with tape to block out the noise:

Though the Rams struggled early on with the noise, a fake punt in the second quarter helped get their offense on track and they were able to make it a 3-point game at the half.

Watch: Antonio Brown catches passes from Kyler Murray

Antonio Brown

Kyler Murray is getting his work in with a real pro ahead of the NFL Draft.

Antonio Brown shared video on Sunday of him catching passes from the Heisman Trophy winner.

Surely this will lead people to wonder whether Brown will want a trade from the Pittsburgh Steelers to a team that drafts Murray. But this also shows us how serious Murray is about his pro football future. If a future in baseball were his primary focus, he probably wouldn’t be out there throwing passes like this to a player like Brown.

Saints superfan ‘Whistle Man’ adds to raucous atmosphere for Rams

Saints logo

The atmosphere in the NFC Championship Game at the Superdome in New Orleans was raucous, causing all kinds of communication issues for the Los Angeles Rams early in the game.

One thing fans watching the game noticed was loud whistle noises when the Rams had the ball. According to announcer Mike Tirico, the whistle noises come from a specific superfan called “Whistle Man.”

Here’s a look at Whistle Man.

Whistle Man makes all the noise naturally!

Even a fake Sean Payton had a whistle:

Whether it’s the home team piping in crowd noise or odd tricks in Seattle, there’s a reason why homefield advantage in the NFL is such a big deal. Playing in New Orleans where you have fans interrupting the opposing team with whistles makes it so tough. That’s part of the reason why Jared Goff was having communication issues in his helmet.

Patrick Mahomes has bag checked by stadium security before AFC Championship

Patrick Mahomes

It’s hard to believe Patrick Mahomes has only been a starting quarterback in the NFL for one season when you look at everything he has accomplished. Heck, the guy hasn’t even been around long enough for security at Arrowhead Stadium to give him a free pass.

A couple of hours before kickoff of the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, Mahomes had his bag checked by a security guard while entering his home stadium.

It’s unclear if that is just Arrowhead Stadium policy and there are no exceptions or if the security guard didn’t know who Mahomes was, but you can bet that would never happen to Tom Brady in New England.

Mahomes may have thrown for more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdown passes during the regular season, but he’s still just 23. Guys who are much older than him have gotten the same treatment from stadium security before, so he shouldn’t feel that bad.

Look: Saints fans cause Superdome ceiling damage with incredible noise

Saints logo

New Orleans Saints fans were so loud during Sunday’s NFC Championship that they caused some minor building damage at the Superdome.

Saints fans got so loud after Demario Davis’s first quarter interception of Rams quarterback Jared Goff that part of the ceiling cracked and fell near the building’s media workroom.

Obviously, the building is extremely loud, and that noise seemed to rattle the Rams during the early going of Sunday’s game. It was definitely a factor in New Orleans getting off to a hot start and jumping to an early 13-0 lead. One has to wonder if one Rams player is starting to regret something he said during the week ahead of the game.

Watch: Rams convert on huge fake punt early against Saints

The Los Angeles Rams went into desperation mode early on in the NFC Championship Game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, and it paid off in a big way.

Trailing 13-0 early in the second quarter and unable to get anything going on offense, Rams head coach Sean McVay decided to call for a fake punt at his own 30-yard line. The play was executed to perfection, as punter Johnny Hekker hit Sam Shields for a sizable gain on 4th-and-5.

The call was a risky one from McVay, as the Saints would have had excellent field position and a chance to go up three possessions early if LA was stopped. However, the Rams came out completely flat and could not afford to give the ball back to New Orleans again. McVay knew how badly his team needed momentum. The Rams were held to a field goal that cut the lead to 13-3, but it was important for them to get on the board to avoid having the game spiral out of control.

If you remember, the Rams used Hekker on a fake field goal earlier in the season against the Saints, but they came up short thanks to a very controversial spot. New Orleans should have seen the fake coming on Sunday.

Watch: Rams players run into each other on Saints touchdown pass

Rams collision

The New Orleans Saints’ crossing pattern that led to their first touchdown of the NFC Championship Game on Sunday could not have gone much better.

As two Saints ran their routes late in the first quarter, they crossed paths. Michael Thomas and Garrett Griffin ran their routes so perfectly that the players defending them collided.

Watch as Los Angeles Rams defensive backs John Johnson III and Marcus Peters slam into each other, leaving Griffin open for the easy touchdown:

That touchdown made it 13-0 Saints late in the first quarter.

Between the solid offensive execution and the noise issues the Rams’ offense was having, New Orleans was piling on early in the game.

Saints use Robert Woods quote to egg on fans

Robert Woods

The New Orleans Saints are using every trick in the book to rile up the home crowd at the Superdome for the NFC Championship.

That includes using what may be an ill-advised quote from Los Angeles Rams receiver Robert Woods, who voiced his belief that the home crowd in New Orleans would not significantly impact Sunday’s game. That quote was flashed on the video boards at the Superdome in a bid to prove that wrong.

The Superdome is known for being one of the loudest environments in sports. Maybe Woods underestimated that, or maybe he thought that saying so wouldn’t be a big deal, but considering the crowd noise impacted Jared Goff almost immediately, it’s fair to say that the quote did not age well.