METAIRIE, La. — Saints players returned to the team’s practice facility on Airline Drive to clean out their lockers after a heartbreaking loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
The mood in the locker room was what you’d expect. Players had time to calm down after an emotional night, but the sting of what was lost – what was taken from them – was still there.
“It just feels dirty,” Punter Thomas Morstead said. “One of the core values that the league had to do is have total transparency, or at least the perception of it. And to have a fair game. They want the best team to advance, and they want the playing field to be perfect and in general the refs don’t want to throw the flag, they don’t want to impact the game. But on the flip side of that, they can impact the game by keeping it in their pocket when it should have been thrown. You know, last year we got beat and we felt like we got beat. (Minnesota) made a play and we didn’t stop them. As tough as that was, I think as a player you can handle that. This feels … it Just feels a little dirty.”
“Nothing you can do about it now,” Defensive Tackle Tyeler Davison added.
An overtime loss to the Rams could’ve ended in the fourth quarter when Tommy-Lee Lewis went up to grab a pass from Drew Brees on third-and-10, a catch that would’ve let the Saints run the clock to a victory. However, Rams DB Nickell Robey-Coleman tackled him before the ball arrived, a clear pass interference penalty, but the flag never came.
“It’s devastating really for this team, for this city,” Left tackle Terron Armstead said. “The crowd was crazy. It was a great game. For both team, a lot of plays made, a lot of mistakes made, but just a great game. And then to have a non-call be such a deciding factor…you know we felt we would have kicked the field goal to go ahead with minimal time left and we would have been on to Atlanta in a couple weeks. It’s devastating.”
Instead, the Rams got the ball back with 1:41 left in regulations and went on to tie the game, forcing overtime. The Saints got the ball first, but Drew Brees was intercepted on the drive and the Rams would only need a field goal to punch their ticket to Atlanta.
“I think a lot of guys in this locker had a tough time sleeping last night,” backup QB Teddy Bridgewater said. “A lot of coaches said they didn’t get much sleep. When you can taste it and you can’t enjoy it the way you want to, it hurts.”
While the Rams are heading to Atlanta for a championship game against the New England Patriots, the Saints turn their eyes to next season and what’s next for a talented team with a young core and a veteran leader.
“Every Year is Different,” Linebacker Demario Davis said. “So when you come back and you go back to work, you start from scratch. You’ve gotta build a house all over again. It is what it is.”