LOS ANGELES — When Drew Brees went to the sideline holding his injured throwing hand, Sunday’s NFC Championship Game rematch dramatically changed.
The 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.
Jared Goff passed for 283 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for a score, and the Rams stopped the Saints from scoring an offensive touchdown for the first time since 2016 in a 27-9 win.
A strong performance by the Rams and another officiating decision that hurt the Saints were overshadowed by Brees’ departure late in the first quarter.
Brees was in the shotgun on third and 8 from the Saints 46-yard line with 6:48 remaining in the first quarter when Rams tackle Aaron Donald beat Saints left guard Andrus Peat and got pressure up the middle. Brees’ hand hit Donald on an incomplete throw to tight end Jared Cook. Brees spent the rest of the game on the sideline with the right thumb wrapped.
Brees planned to see a hand specialist Monday in Los Angeles, ESPN reported.
“I am very concerned,” Brees said. “I’m hoping for the best and preparing for whatever the next steps might be according to the evaluation.
“I felt it right away. You might get jammed thumbs or fingers, different things where it swells up. This felt like it was more significant and prevented me from gripping the ball,” said Brees, who was 5-of-8 for 38 yards and an interception.
The Bucs’ first game against the NFC South rival Saints is Oct. 6.
Teddy Bridgewater went 17-of-30 for 165 yards in relief, and Alvin Kamara rushed for just 45 yards for the Saints, who seemed discombobulated without Brees, though the Rams’ defense deserved credit as well
Brees’ absence “really didn’t change anything at all for us,” said pass rusher Dante Fowler, a former Lakewood High and Florida standout. “Everybody was on top of their game.”
Todd Gurley ran for 63 yards and scored his first touchdown of the year in the third quarter of the rematch of the Rams’ 26-23 overtime win in January. That game turned on the infamous uncalled pass interference by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman.
This one also had refereeing drama that left the Saints steamed: New Orleans’ Cameron Jordan had a fumble return for a score wiped out in the second quarter. The initially ruling was an incomplete pass; then video review determined Goff had fumbled. But Jordan’s return didn’t count because officials had blown the play dead.
A look ahead at Bruce Arians’ first year in Tampa Bay and a critical season for Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers.