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- Key Decision #1 – Down 23-10 with about 10:50 left in the 4th quarter, the Saints faced a 4th & goal from the Rams 4-yard line. Saints Head Coach Sean Payton’s decision was between FG or going for the TD. If he kicked the FG, it’d still be a two-score game with nearly 11 minutes left to go, and a TD and FG ties the game. However, if he went for the TD and got it, the tone of the game would change at 23-17, and if he didn’t get it, holding the Rams and scoring two late TDs would still win the game. In our view, this calculation came down to answering this question: how many possessions do you feel you can get with 11 minutes left? The answer to this question depends on the quality of your defense, which for the Saints today, was questionable given their two starting CBs and one of their best pass rushers were out. This is a close one for us, but we may have erred on the side of going for it, although we can certainly understand why Payton didn’t. He doesn’t have a redzone force at TE, and his team had just engineered a comeback victory the prior week with less time left in the game. Interestingly, Payton was in a position to secure the necessary extra possession to try to win the game, but it was contingent on a successful onside kick play.
- Key Moment #2 – Greg Zeurlein kicked a FG with 2:31 left in the game to put the Rams ahead 26-13; however, the Rams could have easily chosen to let the clock run down and kick the FG on the other side of the two minute warning. Now a 13-point lead with only 2:31 left feels fairly secure under most circumstances, but your opponent is Drew Brees and Sean Payton. The Saints promptly scored a TD in about 40 seconds to close to 26-20, and now the Saints were lining up for an onside kick with 1:45 remaining in the game. If the Saints would have recovered that kick, they would have had plenty of time to win the game. This reflected poor clock management on the part of Rams Head Coach Sean McVay.
- We May Be Young, But We Have Players – McVay did an an excellent job of utilizing his personnel, particularly young players such as WR Josh Reynolds and TEs Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee. Veteran WR Robert Woods was injured, but Reynolds performed well in his stead.
- Clock Management Isn’t All About Time Out Calls – McVay also does an excellent job with his offensive tempo; he gets QB Jared Goff to the line quickly, which gives McVay enough time to potentially audible plays into Goff’s helmet prior to the 15 second cutoff. It’s effective, and they continually caught the Saints with the right call.