Top takeaways from NFL Championship Sunday

The drama and intrigue we were missing from the divisional round showed up in a big way during NFL Championship Sunday.

It started with the Los Angeles Rams winning in controversial fashion against the Saints in New Orleans. Jared Goff and the Rams might have come back from a two-score deficit, but it’s the officials who became the story in the Bayou.

Once the Rams punched their ticket to Atlanta, the New England Patriots did battle with the Chiefs in Kansas City. In a game that saw Tom Brady’s squad dominate early, the Chiefs came out like gangbusters in the second half. In the end, New England won by the score of 37-31 in another overtime affair and will now match wits with the Rams in next month’s Super Bowl.

Here are the top takeaways from NFL Championship Sunday.

Jared Goff proves skeptics wrong at every turn

Jan 20, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) drops back to pass against the New Orleans Saints during the first quarter in the NFC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Taking on a future Hall of Famer in Drew Brees, he had to go tit-for-tat with one of the game’s best on the road in the biggest moment of his life.

Goff came up absolutely huge at the end — leading the Rams on three consecutive scoring drives to help the team to an overtime win. That span saw him complete 8-of-13 passes for 135 yards. New Orleans gained a total of 63 yards during this stretch of action.

It wasn’t just that Goff put up the numbers. He made crucial throw after crucial throw, including a bomb to tight end Gerald Everett with pretty much everything on the line.

Sunday represented a coming-out party for this former No. 1 pick, and many were left eating crow

Josh McDaniels’ game plan was perfection defined

Jan 13, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels watches warmups before a game against the Los Angeles Chargers
in an AFC Divisional playoff football game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

McDaniels and the Patriots knew that going into Arrowhead in January would be a tough task for their offense. This unit is limited by a lack of elite play makers on the outside. Whether it’s statistically or on tape, Tom Brady has regressed to an extent this season. New England needed to change things up on offense after showing tremendous balance last week against the Chargers.

That’s exactly what we saw early and often Sunday against the Chiefs. We saw New England run multiple times on 3rd-and-3-plus — picking up a first down with James White on a consistent basis. New England also utilized the passing game as an extension of the run throughout this game. That is to say, relatively easy throws from Brady out on the flat.

The end result was a workmanlike performance from an offense that converted on 13-of-19 third-down opportunities in New England’s narrow overtime win over the Chiefs. Despite the perception some might have of of McDaniels, there’s a reason he continues to be a hot head-coaching commodity.

Officials created a mess in New Orleans

It was pretty apparent throughout the NFC Championship Game that officials were going to let the defenses body their counterparts. We saw this come to fruition multiple times in the first half alone, but it was this non-call on Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman that left everyone in New Orleans stunned.

It was third down with New Orleans driving for a potential go-ahead field goal late in the fourth quarter. If this had been called, the Saints would’ve been able to run down the clock and kick said field goal with no time left. Instead, this gave the ball back to Los Angeles for an opportunity to tie the game. Once that happened, the Rams came out on top in overtime.

We’re not going to sit back here and say that officiating cost the home-standing Saints a shot at the Super Bowl, but they certainly did not help. That was about the most blatant pass interference we’ve seen go uncalled in a long time.

Patrick Mahomes is now a steady veteran?

Jan 20, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws the ball during the first quarter of the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

One of the major stories heading into the AFC Championship Game was Mahomes taking on the GOAT Tom Brady. Would experience win out in this one or was it time for this second-year signal caller to announce his presence on the larger NFL stage?

It didn’t go too swimmingly for the Chiefs early on. They put up less than 50 total yards of offense in the first half alone. This is when Mahomes proved he’s not a wide-eyed young quarterback that crumbles under the pressure.

Instead, Mahomes went tit-for-tat with Brady in the second half — tallying 250-plus passing yards in leading Kansas City into a close game after falling down 14-0 at the half. Unfortunately, he didn’t get an opportunity to touch the ball in overtime. That doesn’t take away from what he did as a sophomore this season.

Saints run game nonexistent

Jan 20, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) runs the ball against the Los Angeles Rams during the third quarter in the NFC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

By: Vincent Frank

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