Rams have no ‘fear of the unknown’ heading into showdown with Saints

When the Los Angeles Rams visited the Superdome to take on the New Orleans Saints in Week 9, they left empty-handed.

Their pursuit of a perfect season was over.

Their maimed defense was exposed– allowing 487 total yards and seven third down conversions in 12 attempts.

Their secondary was dissected with the precision of a Dr. James Andrews surgery by a Hall of Fame quarterback finding a singular target in Michael Thomas so often even Tom Brady and James White would roll their eyes.

Their All-Pro running back was stymied as Todd Gurley only rushed for 68 yards.

And yet, there’s plenty of good to take away from that 45-35 early November loss.

“Getting a chance to feel what a tough atmosphere that is to play in where, I think there’s a lot of times a fear of the unknown and now that we kind of know what to expect with a great crowd and how that’s going to have to alter some of the different things that we’ll do specific to offense – some of our communication, I think we can use that as a positive,” head coach Sean McVay reflected ahead of the NFC Championship.

That game on November 4 is the only game the Rams have played in this season where they never held a lead and it was a game where emotions were at a boiling point.

Rams are ‘a different team’ heading into NFC Championship Game against Saints

With Aqib Talib out with an ankle injury, Marcus Peters was tasked with shadowing the Saints’ Thomas all night and– refer back to the Dr. James Andrews analogy above– it didn’t go in his favor.

Thomas, who has since been named first-team All-Pro, torched Peters for a career-high 211 yards on 12 catches, including a dagger 72-yd touchdown with under four minutes left to seal the win. Following the game, Saints head coach Sean Payton provided the hot-headed Peters with some bulletin board material.

“They were going to travel Marcus to him, and that was fine by us,” Payton told reporters. “We thought we really liked that matchup — a lot.”

Peters, well, he didn’t take too kindly to that.

“Tell Sean Payton, keep talking that s—, we gonna see him soon. You feel me? Yeah,” Peters said in the locker room. “Cause I like what he was saying on the sideline too. Tell him he can keep talking that s—. And I hope he sees me soon. You feel me? Then we’re gonna have a good little, nice little bowl of gumbo together.”

It seems like Peters is finally ready to make the invitation, two months later.

But while Peters may have been the Ram who lost his cool off the field, there were others who needed to control themselves on the field.

Both Aaron Donald and Roger Saffold were called for unnecessary roughness penalties (Donald’s leading to a touchdown; Saffold’s moving the Rams out of Saints territory just before half)– mistakes the Rams will need to clean up if they hope to finish their gumbo with a satisfying taste in their mouth.

“Any time that you go against an opponent, you can definitely be able to utilize some different things from that game to try to help yourself (inaudible) move forward,” McVay said. “I think we showed some good mental toughness … At the end of the day, they made enough plays and they ended up being able to get it done at the end.”

If the Rams are indeed able to get it done at the end this time it will mean a trip to their first Super Bowl since 2001, a feat that isn’t lost on the 32-year-old play caller.

“It’s something that when you get a chance to play for one game away, that’s exactly why you do all this hard work. To be able to see the people that you love and care about so much – having that success and sharing that with them is what’s special about it,” McVay said.

So get the shrimp or sausage or crabmeat ready, because this gumbo date will be even spicer than the first one.