The No-Call: The Saints and the call that wasn’t made

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Michael Thomas
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – JANUARY 20: Michael Thomas #13 of the New Orleans Saints catches a pass against the Los Angeles Rams during the fourth quarter in the NFC Championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 20, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

The Rams had two time outs left. Conventional wisdom says force them to burn those timeouts. Normally, this is where you tell your linemen to have a gut check and you run the ball right at the defense. Even if you only gain a few yards, you force them to use timeouts.

It’s understood that our rushing attack was poor on this day, but you still have to try, even if it’s an odd play. Sean Payton elects to run a pass play on first down at the 13. Yes, it was another short pass. Yes, it was to a normally sure handed Michael Thomas. Yes, it might catch them off guard. But it also could leave you with an incomplete pass, eliminating the need for the Rams to call a timeout.

Worse, passes get tipped and interceptions happen. Routes get jumped. From the 13 yard line, even being tackled for a loss of one or two yards leaves you well in field goal range. You will hear the case made, not completely without merit, that Sean Payton’s clock management cost us the game. I just don’t believe it’s that simple.

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So the pass was a curious call, one that would haunt the Saints later as the Rams saved the timeout they should have had to call there during their final drive. Before their second down play, the Saints did something they did a lot all game, and often this season. They took entirely too long to get the play in and the personnel grouping on the field and they ended up burning a timeout. Not costly in terms of having to stop the clock, but every second you give those defenders to catch their breath, adjust, and get off their heels, is a second gained against you.