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FOOTBALL FREAK: What a Championship Sunday!

['Journal Pioneer NFL columnist John Turner.']
['Journal Pioneer NFL columnist John Turner.']

Both NFL conference title games had fans on the edge of their seats

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. —

Wow, incredible, insane, unbelievable are some of the words to describe Championship Sunday!  
Both NFL conference title games went into overtime, and had fans everywhere on the edge of their seats. The visiting Rams and Patriots came out on top to advance to the Super Bowl in Atlanta.
The Rams-Saints’ NFC Championship game will unfortunately be remembered not for the high level of football, but how the officials decided the game. No one can argue that the third-down play with 1:48 left on the clock was anything but a blatant pass-interference penalty by Rams corner Nickell Robey-Coleman on wide receiver Tommylee Lewis. It was a huge missed call by the officials.
New Orleans would be going to the Super Bowl if a flag was thrown for this penalty. The Saints would have had a first down inside the 10-yard line, and the Rams only had one timeout left. Realistically, the game would have ended with a chip-shot field goal by the Saints.  
With that being said, and how the non-call led to the Saints kicking a field goal with more than enough time on the clock for the Rams to get in position for kicker Greg Zuerlein’s game-tying kick, New Orleans still had a chance to win it.
The Saints could have done something about the bad call as they had the ball to start overtime, and needed a score to win the game. However, they were in shock, and Drew Brees threw an interception to set up Zuerlein’s game-winning field goal.
We cannot forget the great plays in this game, such as the pass on a fake punt by Johnny Hekker to Sam Shields when Los Angeles was down 13-0, and New Orleans had all the momentum and the crowd was going nuts. There was the touch pass by Jared Goff to Brandin Cooks late in the first half that set up a short touchdown run to get the Rams back in the game, and do not forget the big plays on first and second down L.A.’s defence made to set up the overtime pick.
Yes, this game will be overshadowed by the bad missed call, but until the NFL does something about reviewing penalties – perhaps each team gets one challenge only in the fourth quarter to review a pass-interference penalty, or non-call for pass interference – unfortunately these missed calls will continue to cost teams a game or two. Or, in the Saints’ case, a chance to win the Super Bowl.

AFC
Now to perhaps the best fourth quarter in playoff history as the Patriots beat the Chiefs. The Freak can’t remember a fourth quarter with so much on the line, where there were four lead changes and two of them in the last 40 seconds.
The story of the game was the Chiefs’ inability to stop Tom Brady and his offence on third down, especially in overtime. Also, the Patriots won this game in the trenches as Brady wasn’t touched the whole game, and their D-line pressured Pat Mahomes into some bad passes. Furthermore, New England will capitalize on mistakes (Dee Ford lining up offside on a Brady interception late in the game), and make you pay for them with a critical touchdown drive.
Do you see the Pats making mental mistakes at big moments in a game?
Hats off to Mahomes, who showed he can lead a team back, not only once but twice late in the fourth quarter, in the biggest game of his life. He is going to have an outstanding NFL career as he has the mental and physical tools to be great.
It was just too bad he didn’t get a chance with the football in overtime. Perhaps, just for the playoffs, a game should not be decided by who wins the coin toss. Give both teams a chance to possess the ball.
Football purists and coaches alike admire what the Patriots have accomplished. You have to marvel at their system, the precision and execution by the players. New England builds its teams every season with players who have talent, but more than that have an extremely high football IQ.
This gives Coach Belichick and staff the ability to change their game plan instantly if their opponents show them something they were not expecting. New England has the ability to dig deep into their playbook every week for plays that haven’t been used in six or seven seasons. How many teams and players can do this in-game?
Only the Patriots.
They will outsmart you every time, and this is all thanks to a great coach and his assistants, who are all very intelligent football people.
The defensive game plan that shut out the Chiefs in the first half was brilliant, and Andy Reid didn’t have an answer to halftime. That’s the difference – the Chiefs couldn’t make the immediate adjustments to the Pats’ defensive schemes, and it cost them in the end.

Super Bowl
Finally, we will be in for another great Super Bowl as both teams deserve to be in the big game.
Rams coach Sean McVay is the next great young innovative coach in the game that every team is looking for. Can he outcoach the genius in New England?
We will have to wait and see!
Don’t forget to read Friday’s Journal Pioneer as all the local experts make their annual Super Bowl picks, and watch for The Freak’s breakdown of the big game on Saturday.

John Turner is a Summerside school teacher and coaches youth football. His column appears every Saturday during the NFL season. Feel free to e-mail questions and comments to ssidespartansfootball@yahoo.ca.

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