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Winners and losers from NFL Championship Sunday

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Rams and Patriots are headed to Atlanta

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots are headed to Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII after vanquishing their foes on Championship Sunday.

Both games were all knotted up after regulation, requiring overtime — a first in NFL history.

The Rams took down the New Orleans Saints, winning the NFC Championship Game on a 57-yard field goal.

Later on, the Chiefs scrapped back from an early deficit, tied the game up with a field goal to send it to overtime, only to watch Tom Brady and Co. break their hearts.

These were the winners and losers from the action on Championship Sunday.

 

Winner: Brandin Cooks gets some revenge

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like ages ago, but it was only a few years back that Cooks was starring on offense for the Saints. Then he was traded by New Orleans to New England, and ultimately he landed in Los Angeles with the Rams.

On Sunday, the talented receiver was a big reason why the Rams woke up on offense in the second half. He hauled in a gorgeous 36-yard pass in the third quarter to set up a Todd Gurley rushing score and finished with seven receptions for 107 yards to lead all receivers for both teams in the game.

Talk about getting some sweet, cold revenge against your former team.

 

Loser: Michael Thomas was largely shut out

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

One of the reasons Cooks was considered expendable in New Orleans was that Thomas was emerging as a legitimate No. 1 receiver. He had a phenomenal 2018 campaign and absolutely roasted the Rams back in November when the two teams met up the first time.

On Sunday, Thomas was practically invisible. Brees targeted him seven times, but he only came down with four catches for 36 yards. We’re talking about a receiver who averaged eight catches for 88 yards per game during the regular season.

Talk about a let-down performance.

 

Winner: Wade Phillips once again called a gem

Wade Phillips

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

For the second week in a row, the Rams shut down the opposing run game almost to the point of it being useless. On Sunday, the Saints managed just 48 yards on 21 attempts, meaning the Rams have allowed just 98 rushing yards the past two games.

This is significant. During the regular season, Wade Phillips’ defense gave up 122 yards per game. The past two weekends, his defense has turned two of the league’s best run offenses into minced meat.

The Rams were also able to get pressure on Brees in the pass game, too. The veteran threw just one interception, but that was essentially a game-winner in overtime. Dante Fowler Jr. hit Brees as he threw, and John Johnson III gave the offense the ball near midfield with a tremendous effort to secure the interception while falling down.

Phillips’ value to Sean McVay is pretty much priceless. He called a masterful game and now he’s headed to the Super Bowl.

 

Loser: Todd Gurley was practically invisible

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Sure, the Rams won. And sure, Gurley scored a touchdown. But he also cost his team points and was virtually non-existent in the game plan while C.J. Anderson took the lion’s share of the work behind Goff.

Last year’s Offensive Player of the Year finished with 13 yards on five touches. His dropped pass in the first quarter was picked off, which led to a field goal for the Saints. He dropped another pass in the first half that would have led to a first down.

It was so strange watching Gurley perform so poorly. Everyone wondered if he was hurt, because he was on the sideline more often than he was on the field on Sunday. But after inquiring, the FOX broadcast team was informed he was not injured.

If the Rams are going to win in Atlanta, Gurley needs to show up.

 

Winner: Greg the Leg comes through

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Rams won Sunday in the Bayou in large part because kicker Greg Zuerlein was money. Los Angeles’ run game was for the most part a non-factor, Jared Goff struggled through much of the first half, and in the end the Rams managed just two touchdowns.

But Greg the Leg came through with four made field goals in four attempts, including a 48-yarder to send the game into overtime and the game-winner from 57 yards out.

Not only did his leg carry the Rams into Super Bowl LIII, he did it in amazing fashion with a bomb that would have been good from 65 yards out.

 

Loser: Refs should be ashamed

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not often that you can point to one single call or missed call as the key reason a team lost a game. But the Saints have a legitimate gripe about the way Sunday’s game went down at the end.

Drew Brees had just completed an incredible 43-yard pass to Ted Ginn to put the Saints at the Rams’ 13-yard line with under two minutes remaining in the third quarter. Then, on third-and-10 from that same spot with 1:48 left on the clock, Brees threw toward Tommylee Lewis, who got absolutely blown up by¬†Nickell Robey-Coleman (watch here).

Robey-Coleman didn’t even glance at the ball. At the least, he should have been flagged for pass interference. A strong case can be made that Robey-Coleman should have been hit with a personal foul for helmet-to-helmet targeting.

Instead, no call was made. The clock was stopped. The Saints had to kick a field goal. If the play had been flagged then New Orleans could have run the clock almost down to zero before kicking a field goal.

 

Winner: Patrick Mahomes is cold blooded

Mark Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The stage is never too big for this kid. After getting absolutely shut out in the first half — 32 total yards for the Chiefs — Mahomes came out in the third quarter on fire.

One play after he tossed that dime, Mahomes hit Travis Kelce on a 12-yard slant for six points and the Chiefs were suddenly in the game.

All told, this young man passed for 295 yards and three touchdowns, showing he has ice water flowing through his veins. Unfortunately, the NFL’s overtime rules kept him from answering the Patriots, who scored a touchdown in the first possession of the extra period.

 

Loser: Rough night for J.C. Jackson

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Undrafted rookie cornerback J.C. Jackson had the unenviable task of covering Travis Kelce and gave up the first Chiefs touchdown of the game. It happens to the best of them, and he was giving up some size on this one in tight quarters in the red zone.

But then he doubled down on the poor play with a brutal, and obvious, pass interference near the end zone to set up the second touchdown of the game from Mahomes. He also was hit with another pass interference call and a holding call in the second half.

The young man barely even registered any official stats (one tackle) outside of the penalties, so his impact was really only felt in a negative sense in this game.

 

Winner: Sony Michel has another monster game

Mark Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots have been riding the heck out of this rookie running back this postseason. Michel was the workhorse last weekend as the Pats took out the Los Angeles Chargers, racking up 129 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

On Sunday, Michel was quite the effective battering ram once again. He rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries as the Pats used him early and often to negate Kansas City’s pass rush.

 

Loser: Tyreek was erased

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

To nobody’s surprise, Bill Belichick and Co. drew up a game plan that pretty much negated the star receiver for Kansas City, Tyreek Hill.

This is a guy who racked up 87 catches for 1,479 yards and 12 touchdowns during the regular season and is the most dangerous deep threat the league has seen in a long time.

Yet on Sunday, Hill was pretty much a non-factor. He saw just three targets and caught just one pass for 41 yards.

 

Winner: Julian Edelman is a playoff monster

Patriots receiver Julian Edelman suffered a devastating knee injury.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Whenever the Patriots need a big play, it seems like Tom Brady looks to — and finds — Edelman.

The two of them picked apart Kansas City’s defense with surgical precision, converting key third downs all game long, and especially in overtime. This receiver just always seems to step up huge when his team needs him the most (see: last year’s miracle) and was the key to New England’s pass game on Sunday.

All told, Edelman racked up seven receptions for 96 yards, helping to spark a third straight Super Bowl appearance for the Pats.

 

Loser: Chiefs defense crumbled

Mark Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs never had a great defense this year. We knew it would be a factor in the postseason. That came to fruition on Sunday.

The second rushing score by Michel was just unbelievable. He could have walked into the end zone for the score because there was absolutely no resistance.

Then, after Mahomes and Co. took the lead right before the two-minute warning, Kansas City’s defense crumbled again.

The Chiefs allowed Brady and Co. to march 65 plays in 84 seconds. A key offsides penalty negated what would have been a game-sealing interception. And then, at the goal line once more, they allowed a too-easy touchdown.

And of course, the Chiefs absolutely provided no resistance in overtime. They allowed three key third-and-long conversions and watched the Patriots score at will to end the game.

New England ended up racking up 524 yards and 36 first downs.

 

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