LOS ANGELES – When Drew Brees went to the sideline holding his injured throwing hand, this NFC championship game rematch — and maybe this season’s Super Bowl race — dramatically changed in an instant.
Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams didn’t waste the opportunity created by Brees’ absence to beat the Saints again. And with no help from a no-call this time.
Goff passed for 283 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another score, and the Rams stopped New Orleans from scoring an offensive touchdown for the first time since 2016 during Los Angeles’ 27-9 victory Sunday.
A strong performance by the Rams’ defense, an impressive second half from Goff’s offense, and another officiating decision that hurt the Saints were all overshadowed by Brees’ departure late in the first quarter.
“I told him I’m hoping for the best,” Goff said of his postgame chat with Brees. “He’s a great player for this league, a face of the league, and somebody we need in the league.”
Brees’ throwing hand collided with Aaron Donald’s outstretched hand while he threw an incompletion on the Saints’ second drive, and the NFL’s career leader in yards passing spent the afternoon on the Coliseum sideline with his thumb heavily wrapped. Brees will see a hand specialist Sunday night, he said.
“There is only so much you can do here as far as a doctor seeing it on the sideline,” Brees said. “Hoping it is not too significant.”
Teddy Bridgewater went 17 of 30 for 165 yards in solid relief, while Alvin Kamara rushed for just 45 yards for the Saints (1-1), who seemed understandably discombobulated without their longtime quarterback — although the Rams’ defense deserves plenty of credit as well.
Brees’ absence “really didn’t change anything at all for us,” Rams pass rusher Dante Fowler said. “We were doing a good job before he got hurt. Everybody was on top of their game.”
New Orleans didn’t score an offensive touchdown for only the fourth time in 13-plus seasons under coach Sean Payton, who got a lengthy contract extension before the game.
“It is going to be a hard film to watch for guys,” Payton said. “We got whipped up front.”
Todd Gurley rushed for 63 yards and scored his first touchdown of the season late in the third quarter of this rematch of the Rams’ 26-23 overtime win in New Orleans last January. That game turned on the infamous uncalled pass interference late in regulation by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, who had six tackles in the rematch.
“Every win is a big win, but today was a very important win,” Robey-Coleman said. “It was a win that basically just closed all the chatter and the naysaying.”
This one also contained early refereeing drama that left the Saints steamed: New Orleans’ Cameron Jordan had a long fumble return for a touchdown wiped out in the second quarter. The play initially was ruled an incomplete pass before video review determined Goff had fumbled, but Jordan’s long return didn’t count because officials had blown the play dead.
Jordan was still furious after the game, even referring to the refs as “the Foot Locker” and saying certain members of the officiating crew “were maybe in their prime a decade ago.”
“If Drew is down, it’s on the defense,” Jordan added. “I take it upon me. I don’t know how many times we hit Jared Goff, but it wasn’t enough. We’ve got to create more turnovers.”
The Saints were hampered by 11 penalties for 87 yards, while the Rams’ offense recovered from a slow start to make three straight touchdown drives in the second half.
But this matchup between two of the most prolific offenses in NFL history was definitely not a fireworks show, between Brees’ absence and the inconsistent performance of Los Angeles coach Sean McVay’s offense. The Rams failed to score a touchdown in the first half for only the third time in McVay’s tenure.
In Other Games
Seahawks 28, Steelers 26
In Pittsburgh, Russell Wilson threw for three touchdowns, including a 28-yard rainbow to DK Metcalf midway through the fourth quarter.
The Steelers lost starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a right elbow injury late in the first half and fell to 0-2 for the first time since 2013 despite solid play from backup Mason Rudolph, who threw a pair of second-half touchdown passes to Vance McDonald.
Ravens 23, Cardinals 17
In Baltimore, Lamar Jackson kept Arizona guessing all afternoon, supplementing an effective passing attack with more than an occasional jaunt out of the pocket.
Jackson threw for 272 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 120 yards in a showdown between two of the league’s most exciting young quarterbacks.
After achieving a perfect passer rating and throwing five TD passes in a season-opening 59-10 rout of Miami, Jackson wasn’t quite as sharp through the air but far more effective with his legs. He ran 16 times (including two kneeldowns at the end), juking and twisting past defenders for key gains — especially when the Cardinals were dropping back in passing situations.
Chiefs 28, Raiders 10
In Oakland, Patrick Mahomes bounced back from the first scoreless opening quarter of his career in the regular season by throwing four touchdown passes in a near-perfect second quarter.
Patriots 43, Dolphins 0
In Miami Gardens, Florida, Antonio Brown caught a 20-yard touchdown pass in his debut for New England, and the defending Super Bowl champions scored twice on interception returns in a two-minute fourth-quarter span.
Brown also made an 18-yard catch on his first play for the Patriots (2-0), who signed him Monday. He finished with 56 yards on four receptions, all in the first half.
The NFL allowed the four-time All-Pro receiver to play despite a civil lawsuit filed Tuesday by his former trainer accusing him of sexually assaulting her on three occasions.
Cowboys 31, Redskins 21
In Landover, Maryland, Dak Prescott carved up the Washington defense with his arm and his legs, completing 26 of 30 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 69 yards.
Lions 13, Chargers 10
In Detroit, Matthew Stafford threw a go-ahead, 31-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Golladay midway through the fourth quarter and Darius Slay made an interception in the end zone with 1:03 left.
Detroit (1-0-1) overcame Stafford’s two interceptions, Slay giving up a lot of receptions and Matt Prater missing an extra point and a field goal.
Bears 16, Broncos 14
Colts 19, Titans 17
Texans 13, Jaguars 12
Bills 28, Giants 14
49ers 41, Bengals 17
Packers 21, Vikings 16
Falcons 24, Eagles 20
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5