Rams (and refs) beat the Saints in OT

The good, bad and ugly of the NFC Championship game

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These teams combined for 80 points in their week nine matchup. They combined to score a bit more than half of that amount this time as the Rams are onto Atlanta courtesy of a 26-23 overtime shocker. Here's how I saw it:

The Good

-Both Seans showed their penchant for gambling in the first quarter. Saints' Payton drew the Rams offsides on 4th & 2; Rams' McVey faked a punt for a passing first down. This was a matchup of two highly innovative offensive play callers: one the proven vet, the other a prodigy. The defensive coordinator matchup (Dennis Allen of the Saints and Wade Phillips of the Rams) was fun to watch as well.

-Saints running back Alvin Kamara was a matchup nightmare. Drew Brees found him 11 times for 96 yards. He routinely made the Rams defense look bad no matter how they tried to defend him. Prime example was the wheel route he caught for a 21-yard gain.

-Rams quarterback Goff outdueled Brees when it counted most. He was able to make several plays in the fourth quarter and overtime. His throw on 2nd down when he was in the grasp of Cam Jordan to gain yards was clutch. It put them within field goal range and ultimately won the game for them.

The Bad

-Saints tight end Dan Arnold dropped a touchdown pass in the first quarter. Brees put it on the money with two defenders nearby. Arnold caught it and dropped it as he was falling to the ground. It forced a field goal try. Four points can make a huge difference in games like these.

-Rams didn't force a Saints punt until midway through the second quarter. The Saints couldn't convert a couple possessions into touchdowns, but were able to maintain a two score lead. The Rams put themselves behind the eightball early again.

-The Saints offensive line couldn't keep Brees clean enough all game. He was sacked twice and was forced into throwing a crushing interception in overtime. Left guard Andrus Peat played through a broken hand that he just had surgery to correct two weeks ago. The Rams pass rush exposed this line's deficiencies.

The Ugly

-Rams linebacker Cory Litteton gave Saints tight end Josh Hill a forearm shiver to the head in the first quarter. Hill went out under concussion protocol, but there was no flag on Littleton. Saints were already without Benjamin Watson at tight end.

-Rams running back Todd Gurley must still be injured. His play has been limited the last few weeks. When he has played, he hasn't made an impact. He dropped a pass that Saints linebacker Demario Davis intercepted and led to a field goal. Another dropped pass would've been a for sure first down, if not a touchdown, and forced the Rams to kick a field goal.

-The refs missed several calls, but what's new. Saints defensive end Cam Jordan appeared to have horse collared Rams Quarterback Jared Goff. Rams corner Nickell Robey-Coleman clearly held Saints wideout Tedd Ginn Jr on a third down incompletion. But the missed pass interference call against Robey-Coleman on Tommylee Lewis was blatant!

Another NFC Championship game in New Orleans and another overtime thriller. The Saints had the game in their hands, only to have it taken away from them. A lot will be made of the non-call on the third down that caused them to kick a field goal with 1:45 left and not ice the game on that field goal with no time left. The Rams are now on to Atlanta and Sean McVey is on his way to becoming the youngest head coach to possibly win a Super Bowl.

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The losing streak continues

Mariners get walk-off win over short-staffed Astros

Alex De Goti had an impressive debut. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

After a brutal homestand capped off by losing five players to the IL for health and safety protocols, the once 5-1 Astros brought their now 6-6 record to T-Mobile park in Seattle to try and right the ship. They'd have to do it with new and young players in the lineup using the "next man up" mentality to get some wins against the first-place Mariners.

Though the young bats would work themselves into a lead most of the night, Houston's bullpen wouldn't be able to hold the Mariners down, with Seattle ultimately walking things off in the ninth.

Final Score: Mariners 6, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 6-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Anthony Misiewicz (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (0-1)

After a quiet start, Houston gets three in the fifth

After cruising through the Astros through the first four innings, allowing only a walk over that span, Houston was able to put up a big inning against Yusei Kikuchi in the top of the fifth. Carlos Correa notched the first hit of the night, followed by a walk by Taylor Jones to put two on base.



That brought Alex De Goti, making his major-league debut, to the plate and, in his second career at-bat, would get his first hit and RBI, bringing in Correa from second on a single. A second run would come on the same play on a throwing error, then Chaz McCormick made it a three-run inning with an RBI-double, putting Houston out front 3-0.

Urquidy comes an out shy of a quality start

Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy was doing well through five innings. On track for a much-needed quality start, the Mariners would tag him in the bottom of the sixth, getting three-straight hits to bring in two runs to lead off the frame and leaving a runner on second base with no outs.

Urquidy would rebound to get the next two batters on strikeouts, but at 90 pitches and with a left-handed hitter up next, Dusty Baker would bring in lefty Brooks Raley to try and get out of the inning with the one-run lead intact. Raley would do his job, putting Uruidy's line final: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 90 P.

Teams trade two-run seventh innings

The young bats for Houston struck again in the top of the seventh, with Jones and De Goti leading it off with back-to-back singles before Jason Castro would load the bases with a walk. With two outs, Aledmys Diaz would push the lead back to three with a two-RBI single, making it 5-2.

With Raley out after facing his one batter, next out of Houston's bullpen was Bryan Abreu to help maintain Houston's lead. Instead, he would give up two runs on two hits and a walk while getting just two outs before Baker moved on to Blake Taylor, who would get the last out of the seventh with Houston hanging on to a one-run lead at 5-4.

Mariners get the walk-off win

Taylor remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth, and after getting an out, would allow a game-tying solo home run to Evan White before injuring himself trying to field an infield single. Ryne Stanek entered and finished off the eighth, sending the tie game to the ninth.

After Houston came up empty in the top half, Stanek remained in the game in the bottom of the ninth, attempting to force extras. Back-to-back walks ended Stanek's night, with the Astros hoping Ryan Pressly could bail them out. He couldn't, though, giving up the walk-off hit as the Mariners would take the opener, 6-5.

Up Next: Game two of this three-game set will start an hour earlier on Saturday, with first pitch at 8:10 PM Central. Zack Greinke (1-1, 4.08 ERA) will try to rebound from a poor start his last time out for the Astros, while the Mariners will hand the ball to Chris Flexen (1-0, 4.50 ERA).

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