Early Bird Report: Saints' march to Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII falls short

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today’s Early Bird Report includes the Super Bowl LIII matchup being set as well as the Saints getting denied the chance to march into Atlanta.

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The matchup for Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium is set. The Los Angeles Rams will square off against the New England Patriots for the Lombardi Trophy in Atlanta on Sunday, Feb. 3.

Both the NFC and AFC Championship games were memorable in their own unique ways. The NFC showdown between the Rams and the New Orleans Saints featured a resolute comeback by the Rams, a very controversial no-call late in the fourth quarter and a 57-yard game-winning field goal by Los Angeles in overtime.

The AFC Championship between the Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs had four lead changes in a fourth quarter where the two teams combined for 38 points, a classic quarterback battle between Patrick Maholmes and Tom Brady as well as exceptional commentary from CBS’ Tony Romo.

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell recaps Sunday’s games with 16 “crucial plays” that played a role in determining the outcomes.

There’s only one game remaining in the 2018 NFL season, and it should be a good one.

Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:

ESPN: Sean Payton: Saints will ‘never get over’ blown call

Sean Payton and the Saints were understandably upset that the referee did not call pass interference on Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman on a third-down play late in the fourth quarter. After the game, Payton told reporters that he was told by the NFL’s head of officials that the officials in the game “blew the call,” according to ESPN’s Mike Triplett.

"For a call like that not to be made, man, it's just hard to swallow,” Payton said after the game, per Triplett. “And then to get a phone call ... We spoke initially, then I called to follow up. And the first thing [head of officials Alberto Riveron] said when I got on the phone -- 'We messed it up.'

"Listen, it's a hard job for those guys 'cause it's happening fast. But I don't know if there was ever a more obvious pass interference call that -- here it is, the NFC Championship Game. So, it's a tough one to swallow."

To read the rest of Triplett’s report, click here.

AJC: The Rams stun the Saints. Atlanta might throw a parade

It’s no great secret that virtually every Falcons fan loathed seeing the team’s greatest rival playing for a Super Bowl in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. After the Rams’ victory on Sunday, that won’t happen. In a column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mark Bradley channels the sentiment that many Atlanta residents had after the Saints’ loss.

“Exhale, Atlanta,” Bradley writes. “Your worst nightmare isn’t headed Northeast to plop itself down in the big stadium off Northside Drive. The Saints aren’t marching anywhere except home, surely to wonder where that 13-0 lead went. And we Atlantans know how much fun it is to blow a big lead with the world watching, don’t we?

“The Falcons’ hated rival contrived to throw away an NFC championship game Sunday, pretty much the same as the Falcons did against the 49ers in January 2013. No, what the Saints did wasn’t as bad as 28-3. (Nothing will ever be as bad as 28-3.) But this was a cosmic crusher for the city that wanted badly not just to win the Super Bowl but to rub the Falcons’ beaks in it.”

AJC: Calvin Ridley has car stolen in Buckhead

Calvin Ridley’s car was stolen at a Buckhead gas station on Saturday night, according to The AJC, which received police confirmation of the crime. According to the report by J.D. Capelouto, Ridley was inside of the BP on Piedmont Road when someone slid into his still-running 2018 Dodge Challenger and drove away.

“Between 9:50 and 10 p.m., Ridley told police, someone drove away with his car,” Capelouto writes. “He said his car was push-to-start and he still had the keys on him.”

To read the rest of the report, click here.

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