The New Orleans Saints drive for Atlanta and Super Bowl LIII ended Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Los Angeles Rams rallied to beat the Saints 26-23 in overtime and earn the right to play the AFC champion Feb. 3 in the Super Bowl.
After trailing for the entire game, the Rams tied the score at 20 on a 24-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein and then sent it to overtime on a 48-yard field goal by Zuerlein.
The Saints won the overtime toss and got the ball first. Rams defensive end Dante Fowler hit Drew Brees as he was passing, forcing a bad throw that was intercepted by safety Josh Johnson III. The Rams took over at their 46-yard line and won on another Zuerlein field goal, this one from 57 yards, the longest in postseason history.
It looked like the Saints may have won it in regulation after Brees engineered one of his late-game masterpieces. He hit running back Alvin Kamara on a crucial third-and-two to extend the drive and then placed the Saints in scoring position with a beautiful 43-yard pass to Ted Ginn Jr. It looked like Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman interfered on a pass to receiver Tommylee Lewis down the right sideline but no flag was thrown. That forced the Saints to settle for a 31-yard Wil Lutz field goal with 1:41 to play to make it 23-20. But that gave Los Angeles enough time to march into Saints territory and force overtime on a 48-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein with 15 seconds to play.
Coach Sean Payton said after the game the league office called and admitted its officials had missed two penalties on the play, defensive pass interferebce and a helmet-to-helmet hit. "I don't know if there was ever a more obvious pass interference call," Payton said.
The loss ends one of the best seasons in Saints history as the team finished the regular season 13-3 and clinched the top seed in the NFC playoffs. Brees, who turned 40 years old last week, became the NFL’s all-time leading passer in October and put together a MVP-worthy season.
"This was a special team, a special year," Brees said. "A ton of great memories."
Key Saints stat leaders
Drew Brees, 26 of 40 for 249 yards with two TDs and one interception
Mark Ingram, nine carries for 31 yards
Alvin Kamara, 11 catches for 96 yards
Michael Thomas, four catches for 36 yards