RAMS ROLL OVER HOUSTON

Defensive effort wears down in 33-7 Texans loss

Tom Savage had another rough day. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Anyone who thought this game was going to be a blowout wouldn't have been laughed at. The Rams came into the week with the No. 1 scoring offense, averaging 33 points a game and the Texans still had Tom Savage. There was a lot of concern that this game would be over before it even really began but the first half was a surprise. The Texans' defense was strong to start the game and their offense gave them little help. At halftime it looked like it could be a low scoring game. The Rams didn't let it end that way. They made big plays and ran away with the game 33-7. 

The very first drive made Houston fans fear the worst as defensive tackle Aaron Donald got to Savage for a sack fumble that was recovered to the Texans 12-yard line. 

It was the first possession by the Rams that Houston felt like there was hope. They forced a 3-and-out and a field goal by kicker Greg Zuerlein to make the game 3-0. The offenses then traded punts twice and Savage was able to get something going.

He led them on a nine-play drive into the red zone where penalties by the Rams and a few mid-range throws put them in great position to tie the game. For the second week in a row, Ka'imi Fairbairn missed a makeable field goal.

The Rams took over on the 24 yard line and took only 6 plays to go 62 yards. Zuerlein made his second field goal and gave them a 6-0 lead. The big play on that drive for the Rams was a 43-yard screen pass from Jared Goff to Todd Gurley that set them up on the right side of the 50-yard line. The very next play was a 15-yard run by Gurley and it looked like the Texans' defense was falling apart. But they held again and it was time for them to get help from the offense.

They actually did. The Texans took over on their 25-yard line and marched 75 yards in 8 plays for a touchdown. Big passes for Savage included a 17-yarder to Stephen Anderson, an 18-yarder to DeAndre Hopkins, and the 26-yard pass to Bruce Ellington for the score. Unexpectedly the Texans led 7-6, with a defense that was holding the other team at bay.

The Rams must have sensed a momentum shift was needed if they were going to get back in the game. After their offense stalled again they attempted a trick play on 4th and 7. Their punter Johnny Hekker completed a pass to wide receiver Pharoh Cooper. A great open field tackle by safety Kurtis Drummond held the play to 6 yards and gave the ball back to the Texans offense at the Rams 38-yard line. 

But Savage couldn't make anything happen. In 6 plays they made it to the 20-yard line where he threw an interception to linebacker Mark Barron. That led to a 2-minute drill by Jared Goff and another field goal sending Los Angeles into halftime with a 9-7 lead.

A slow start to the second half ended on the Rams second possession. Their 9-7 lead quickly grew to 16-7 when the third play of their second drive was a 94-yard pass from Goff to Robert Woods. For the Texans offense, that was too much. From then on they had to force plays and were not able to make anything happen.

Meanwhile; special teams--another area of weakness--allowed a 27-yard punt return that gave LA great field position and set them up for a three play touchdown. A loss of five on the first play was followed by completions of 24 and then 17 yards to Sammy Watkins, the second a touchdown. Now it was 23-7 Rams and there was no looking back.

One play later LA had the ball back. Linebacker Samson Ebukam sacked Savage and forced a fumble putting the ball at the Texans 12-yard line. One play after that the score was 30-7 on a pass from Goff to Woods, his second touchdown reception of the day and 14 points in 19 seconds for them.

The Texans were done after that. There are no 30 point plays in the NFL. The Rams just controlled the clock on their next possession, taking 6:26 seconds to finish with a field goal and 26 point lead with 7:38 left in the game. Meanwhile their defense was now in prevent mode and could wait for Savage to throw another interception, which he did.

For everyone who thought there was a slim chance the Texans could salvage anything the rest of the way, today was a wake up call. Sure, the Rams have a great offense but Savage turns the ball over too much. Today he threw two interceptions and fumbled twice. He was wildly inaccurate most of the day and held the ball too long. They managed only 89 yards on the ground and despite the one touchdown looked like they couldn't get it done.

There are still 7 games left in the season and each one of those is a chance for something good to go Houston's way. It will start next week at home against a Cardinals team that is equally having its struggles. 

Drew Brees and the Saints escaped with an ugly win. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Saints have effectively wrapped up the NFC South with their 25-14 win over the Tampa Bay Bucs. Here's how I saw things:

The Good

-Michael Thomas got himself going this week after a subpar performance against the Cowboys last week. He finished with 11 catches for 98 yards. More of note was his record of most catches in first three seasons. He surpassed Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry on his second catch, his 289th of his career. I hope people take notice and realize how great of a player he is.

-Taysom Hill once again proved his worth as just a football player. He blocked a punt the Saints recovered at the Tampa 30 yard line. It helped set up their first touchdown. Hill is listed as the third string quarterback, but plays running back, wide receiver, and special teams. He also drew a double team penalty on a kickoff.

-Drew Brees is known for his pinpoint accuracy throwing the ball. However, his athleticism is underrated. He notched his fourth rushing touchdown on a 4th and goal play in which he leapt over the line and extended the ball across the plane. The Saints took the lead early in the fourth quarter on that play.

The Bad

-Right before the half, Brees threw an interception that set up Tampa's second touchdown. When this team is rolling, they are the ones scoring before the half when they're getting the ball back after the half.

-They totaled just three rushing yards in the first half on nine attempts. The longest run was from fullback Zach Line at four yards. Another component of this team's success is predicated on the run game.

-Alvin Kamara was held in check. He was limited to 87 yards on 17 touches. His 76 yards on three kick returns were a help, but this team needs him to get going running and catching passes in order to operate at full capacity.

The Ugly

-This was the second game in a row that the Saints failed to score a touchdown in the first half. It could be a sign of teams catching up to them, or it could be a sign of a team that's feeling complacent. Either way, they need to get their offense going again to start games. 24 plays and 104 yards of offense that produced only three points in the first half.

-On their opening possession of the second half, Brees was stripped in the pocket and the Bucs recovered. The pressure came from the left. Missing starting left tackle Terron Armstead is becoming more and more of a glaring issue.

-Brees was limited to less than 270 yards passing, while they also totaled less than 130 yards rushing. Being held below their season averages on offense and still winning is the definition of winning ugly.

The Saints are now 11-2 and firmly in second place in the NFC. Now, they sit back and hope the Rams drop another game down the stretch. They own the tiebreaker over the Rams and need to finish with the same record to get homefield throughout the NFC playoffs. Saints fans will be Bears fans tonight, as well as Eagles, Cardinals, and 49er fans the rest of the season. This is what happens when you drop games you should've won.

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