Saints look to take Rams down memory lane
NFC elite meet in L.A. for a rematch of 2018's controversial title game nt New Orleans home
By BARRY WILNER
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Saturday, September 14, 2019 Print Edition, Page S2
Throw that flag.
For those who have short memories - very short - the previous time the Rams and Saints met was in the NFC championship game in the Big Easy.
New Orleans was victimized by a blatant officiating non-call that led to a rule change allowing pass interference to be part of the video-review system.
The echoes of "We was robbed!" still reverberate in the Superdome.
So the Saints won't need any extra motivation when they visit Los Angeles in a stellar early season matchup. Even if they are trying to play down the unforgettably painful memories.
"Still haven't, never will. When you say forgotten about, you have to find a way to compartmentalize it to where you can move on in a positive way, so I found a way to do that," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "But as far as just the events, you live and learn and sometimes things don't go your way, and you've got to find a way to come out better on the other side."
Saints coach Sean Payton stressed these teams are not the same.
"It feels like it was a long time ago," he said of the NFC title match. "It's part of our game.
These are two different teams now, a lot of roster moves from last year to this year. We're playing each other early in the season, so it doesn't feel like that many games ago relative to the distance between when we played. You're looking at two different teams."
Both teams opened with tight victories, New Orleans rallying to beat Houston in the final seconds on Wil Lutz's 58-yard field goal, the Rams winning at Carolina.
While it's far too early to call this a game for NFC supremacy, the Saints and Rams should be among the conference's elite.
"I think our players, our coaches know the level of urgency that's going to be needed for us to be at our best in order to give ourselves a chance to compete and hopefully come out of this thing 2-0," Rams coach Sean McVay said.
The second week began Thursday night with Tampa Bay's victory over Carolina in a game that ended early Friday after being delayed 25 minutes in the first quarter because of lightning.
Jameis Winston threw for 208 yards and a touchdown, and Tampa Bay held Cam Newton in check, coming up with a late goalline stand to give coach Bruce Arians his first victory with the team.
Tampa Bay improved to 1-1, while Carolina dropped to 0-2.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (1-0) AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS (0-1) A pair of retooling clubs that, for one week at least, looked as if they were headed in opposite directions.
The Seahawks struggled to beat Cincinnati, but showed the elements of being a contender, particularly their fortitude in coming back. Seattle is 2-7 in Pittsburgh, outscored 45-0 in the past two trips - in 2007 and 2011.
It's difficult to believe the Steelers won't rebound from their abysmal performance in Foxborough, Mass. Maybe they need a bit of that fortitude Seattle displayed.
"I like to think everything just flew off and everything was wrong so we can say, 'That's not going to happen again,'" defensive tackle Cam Heyward said.
"But we did some things right.
Not every play was minus, but I'm going to treat it like every play was."
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (0-1) AT TENNESSEE TITANS (1-0) Both teams were far more impressive in their openers than predicted. The Colts took the Chargers to overtime, while the Titans manhandled the Browns in Cleveland.
Andrew Luck held a mastery over Tennessee, and Indy has won 13 of the past 15 meetings. Of course, Luck is retired now, and the only two Titans wins in that span came with current quarterback Jacoby Brissett under centre.
Watch for Marlon Mack, who had a career-high 174 yards rushing at L.A. and leads the league.
The Titans are retiring Nos. 27 and 9 for Eddie George and the late Steve McNair, the first 9 and 27 retired by any NFL team.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (1-0) AT CINCINNATI BENGALS (0-1) Two more clubs that had solid debuts beyond expectations. San Francisco used two interceptions for touchdowns to beat Tampa Bay, and the Bengals gave Seattle all it could handle before a onepoint road loss.
The 49ers have the highest winning percentage against Cincinnati of any NFL team, and last opened a season with two road wins in 1989. They worked out at Youngstown State University in Ohio to avoid a second straight cross-country flight.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton had career highs against the Seahawks last week, with 35 completions and 418 yards passing, his first 400-yard game. Eight receivers caught passes, led by John Ross, who had careers highs with seven catches, 158 yards and two TDs. But running back Joe Mixon hurt his left ankle.
KANSAS CITY (1-0) AT OAKLAND RAIDERS (1-0) One of the great rivalries in sports, dating back to the AFL days. Kansas City leads the series 65-53-2 and has won eight of the past nine.
But K.C. will be without injured star wideout Tyreek Hill, although Sammy Watkins was spectacular against Jacksonville with nine catches for 198 yards and three touchdowns.
The Raiders had an offensive standout in their win over Denver, too. First-round draft pick Josh Jacobs ran 23 times for 85 yards and two touchdowns, while also hauling in a 28-yard pass that set up a touchdown.
"This man wasn't really the feature back at Alabama. He's not drawing from a lot of experience," coach Jon Gruden said.
"I'm anxious to see how he feels ... after 24 touches because we'd like to get him 24 more next week."
DALLAS COWBOYS (1-0) AT WASHINGTON (0-1) Another terrific and historic rivalry that has taken on a one-sided air: Dallas has won seven of nine.
Washington got off to a nice start in Philly, then flopped in the second half. It also lost its top running back, Darrius Guice, to a right-knee injury, meaning Adrian Peterson - a healthy scratch last weekend - figures to get some action.
No such worries for the Cowboys now that Ezekiel Elliott is in the fold. He should be in better form on Sunday, too. And the Dallas passing game ranks first in the league after toying with the Giants.
CLEVELAND BROWNS (0-1) AT NEW YORK JETS (0-1), MONDAY NIGHT Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away ... Well, it was actually 1970, and the Jets had Joe Namath and a recent Super Bowl crown, while the Browns were one of the league's elite franchises with an enviable history.
Now? Gang Green hasn't been back to the big game since and blew a 16-0 lead at home to Buffalo last week. Those Browns of yesteryear now reside in Baltimore as the Ravens, and this group has made the postseason once in its reincarnation in Cleveland.
Still, the NFL wanted a redux of the first Monday Night Football telecast, so here we are, with a pair of clubs that basically faltered in their openers.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (1-0) AT MIAMI DOLPHINS (0-1) Shield your eyes.
The Patriots have had issues in Southern Florida, losing five of their past six visits. Considering how rarely Tom Brady loses anywhere, that's striking.
There's a catch this year: Miami has its sights on the first overall draft pick, not on-field achievements; did somebody mention tanking? The Dolphins were humiliated by Baltimore 59-10 in the opener.
Meanwhile, Brady and Co.
picked Pittsburgh apart last Sunday night, an ominous sign for the rest of the AFC because the Steelers supposedly are a contender in the conference.
ARIZONA CARDINALS (0-0-1) AT BALTIMORE RAVENS (1-0) Lamar Jackson, Heisman Trophy winner (2016), meet Kyler Murray, who took that award last college season.
Both exciting and versatile passers had impressive debuts.
Jackson had a career day in only his eighth pro start, going 17-of-20 for five touchdowns. Yes, it was against Miami, but those numbers stand out against anybody.
Murray rallied the Cardinals from a 24-6 deficit in the fourth quarter against Detroit, overcoming some early mistakes to produce tons of clutch plays.
"Once you kind of get in that rhythm, we're going quick, everything kind of just opened up," Murray said.
"We just got into a rhythm and we started playing better."
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (1-0) AT DETROIT LIONS (0-0-1) The Chargers and Lions both worked overtime last week. At least L.A. got the win over Indianapolis.
Austin Ekeler had the winning, seven-yard TD run and finished with a career-high 154 yards from scrimmage. Ekeler became the first undrafted player to have more than 150 yards from scrimmage, two receiving and a rushing TD in the same game in 43 years.
Detroit has lost seven of the past eight in the series. Its best hope Sunday might be T.J. Hockenson, who had 131 yards receiving last week, breaking the record for a tight end in his NFL debut set 59 years ago by Monty Stickles.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (1-0) AT ATLANTA FALCONS (0-1) DeSean Jackson's return to Philly couldn't have gone much better.
He made eight receptions for 154 yards and a pair of 50-plus-yard TDs in sparking the Eagles' rally from a 17-0 hole against Washington.
"DeSean will tell you he's got practice speed and he's got game speed," coach Doug Pederson said. "Practice speed is around 16 miles per hour, and game speed is up to 22. He's a gamer. He's dynamic, he's electric and he loves when the lights come on. That speed is real, and we saw it Sunday."
What's real with the Falcons is hard to tell after an ugly loss at Minnesota, losing first-round pick guard Chris Lindstrom (broken foot).
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (1-0) AT GREEN BAY PACKERS (1-0) Twenty-two of the past 33 regularseason meetings have been decided by seven points or fewer, including both games last season.
Aaron Rodgers has seven career games with a passer rating of 130-plus against Minnesota, the most by a quarterback against one team in NFL history. But this one very much could be decided by the defences.
Green Bay's was staunch in its win at Chicago, with five sacks and lots of physicality. The Vikings has two picks, four sacks and kept Matt Ryan and the Falcons off balance in an easy win.
CHICAGO BEARS (0-1) AT DENVER BRONCOS (0-1) Vic Fangio designed the stingy and aggressive defence the Bears used last season to win the NFC North. He's now, at the age of 61, at last a head coach. His Broncos D, however, aside from linebacker Josey Jewell's career-best 14 tackles, was anything but dominant at Oakland.
Chicago's defence once more was very strong, this time with Chuck Pagano as the co-ordinator. Edge rusher Khalil Mack had 10 sacks, three forced fumbles and 14 tackles for a loss in eight career games against Denver while he was a Raider.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (0-1) AT HOUSTON TEXANS (0-1) If there's one team that should be encouraged by an opening loss, it's the Texans. Yes, their prevent defence prevented victory at New Orleans, but it was Drew Brees, after all, performing magic on the other side.
Most encouraging for Houston was the spectacular combination of Deshaun Watson throwing to DeAndre Hopkins, and expect to see plenty more of that Sunday.
Star edge rusher J.J. Watt didn't play much of a role against the Saints, so expect to see him do so this time.
Pity the Jags, who felt they cured their longstanding quarterback troubles by signing Nick Foles, only to lose him early in falling to Kansas City. Just as bad, the ballyhooed D was hooey.
BUFFALO BILLS (1-0) AT NEW YORK GIANTS (0-1) Despite the names, the Jets and Giants are New Jersey teams. The Bills are the only real representative of New York State, and they woke up in the fourth quarter at the Meadowlands last Sunday to down the Jets.
They return in a rare bit of scheduling to play the Giants while thinking of a Big Apple sweep.
The Giants need to upgrade the pass defence that was torn apart by Dallas and ranks dead last. Yes, worse than Miami.
Both Alvin Kamara's New Orleans Saints and the L.A. Rams eked out tight wins over their Week 1 opponents.
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Jacoby Brissett impressed in Week 1, allaying some Colts fans' concerns after Andrew Luck's retirement.
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Jameis Winston threw for 208 yards in the Bucs' Week 2 win over the Panthers. Carolina slips to 0-2 to start the season.
If the 49ers defence repeats its shutdown performance from Week 1, Jimmy Garoppolo and Co. might get to 2-0.
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