THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Sean McVay couldn’t help himself. Marcus Peters was addressing what had become the dominant storyline heading into the NFC Championship Game, and the Los Angeles Rams’ young, exuberant head coach tried to play along.
“Let me get some of that soup!” McVay shouted from a hallway that resides roughly 50 feet from the lectern behind which Peters stood Wednesday afternoon, drawing a chuckle from the All-Pro cornerback.
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McVay’s quip aside, Peters and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton both downplayed their rematch and potential “bowl of gumbo” heading into Sunday’s highly anticipated contest at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Peters chided the media for “trying to make it something that it’s not” and praised Payton’s competitiveness. Payton noted that the Saints wanted to draft Peters with one of their first-round picks less than four years ago, adding that he has “great respect for him.”
That did not appear to be the case in early November. The Saints handed the Rams their first loss in that Week 9 game, and the decisive score occurred when Michael Thomas zipped past Peters for a 72-yard touchdown in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, part of a 211-yard game for the Saints’ All-Pro wide receiver. Afterward, Payton said the following: “They were going to travel Marcus to [Thomas], and that was fine by us. We thought we liked that matchup — a lot.”
Four days later, Peters shot back.
“Tell Sean Payton to keep talking that s—,” he said. “We’re going to see him soon, you feel me? Because I like what he was saying on the sidelines, too. So tell him to keep talking that s—, and I hope you see me soon. We’re going to have a nice little bowl of gumbo together.”
In recognition of this turn of events, Peters tweeted, then deleted, a post proclaiming this “gumbo week.”
He then tried to downplay it all.
“I see y’all trying to make it something that it’s not, man,” Peters said. “Just all respect to Sean Payton and what he does. During the game, things was happening. But I just love the fact that he’s a competitor. When I was coming out of the draft, it was the same way — fiery, energy — when I was meeting with him and things like that. It wasn’t nothing to be disrespectful. Shoot, I was pissed off. I didn’t have the game that I wanted to have.”
Despite the loss that afternoon, the Rams went on to win the NFC West with relative ease, then earned a bye and physically dominated the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round. The Saints finished with the same 13-3 record as the Rams, but earned the No. 1 seed by virtue of that victory and put themselves one win away from the Super Bowl by sneaking past the defending-champion Philadelphia Eagles last weekend.
Now, Peters and Payton will match up once more.
Saints reporters approached Payton about the subject by asking whether he preferred chicken and andouille over seafood gumbo.
“Next question,” Payton said, smiling. “I don’t like seafood. I know where you’re going.”
Asked a follow-up on Peters, Payton identified him as “someone that we grew real close to” in the evaluation process heading into the 2015 draft, which saw Peters go to the Kansas City Chiefs with the No. 18 overall pick. Payton used to recruit the Bay Area, where Peters attended high school. And the Saints’ plan heading into that year’s draft was to select both Peters and offensive lineman Andrus Peat.
“That’s the truth,” said Payton, who ultimately drafted Peat and missed out on Peters. “I have great respect for him, and it’s all good.”
Peters can now benefit from the emergence of another All-Pro cornerback in Aqib Talib, who was still recovering from ankle surgery during the Rams’ first game against the Saints. Talib’s presence means neither he nor Peters will travel and instead stick to one side of the field, allowing them to potentially alternate against Thomas.
“You got two dawgs,” Peters said when asked about the significance of Talib joining him in the backfield.
“It gives you some flexibility,” McVay added, citing Talib’s “command” and “ability to communicate.”
Peters experienced what appeared to be a down season in his first year in L.A., coming up with only three interceptions while being graded 100th among 119 qualified corners by Pro Football Focus. His response, when asked about how 2018 played out: “We ain’t done yet.”
Peters has a chance to ensure that by redeeming himself.
“You look forward to those rematches and stuff like that,” Peters said, “but s—, I didn’t know it was going to turn out like this. Y’all didn’t know it was going to turn out like this. It just happened. Y’all have fun spinning the gumbo thing all week.”