Saints vs Rams: Observations

The good, bad and ugly from the Saints 45-35 win over the LA Rams

Drew Brees celebrated another Saints win. Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Despite not being flexed into the Sunday Night Football slot, this was by far the game of the week. It didn’t disappoint as the Saints pulled it out with a 45-35 win. After 1,00 yards plus of offense, here’s how I saw things:

The Good

-The run defense came into this game ranked No. 1 in the league. Figured to be put to the ultimate test against the Rams’ Todd Gurley, they more than held their own. Gurley was held to 68 yards rushing and one touchdown. The Rams as a team only managed 92 yards rushing. Maybe that stat isn’t due to them being so terrible in pass defense after all. Meanwhhile, Alvin Kamara played a better game for the Saints.

-Drew Brees and Michael Thomas is as lethal a pass/catch combo as there is in the league today. They have an unreal 80%-plus completion rate when Thomas is targeted. Thomas ended the game with a team record 211 yards receiving on 12 catches off 15 targets and a touchdown, which turned out to be the game sealing score.

-Major props go to the Saints’ offensive line. Not only did they give Brees a clean pocket to work with, but they also out-muscled the Rams’ vaunted defensive line in the run game. That isn’t an easy feat considering Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh are on that line.

The Bad

-Balance is the name of the game when it comes to carry distribution. Unfortunately, Alvin Kamara carried the load yet again with 19 carries. Mark Ingram had nine, Brees had four, and Taysom Hill had two. This teams works best when Ingram shares the load more with Kamara, and when Hill can be more of a factor as well. Kamara has proved to be durable, but he’s too important to risk getting hurt.

-Ingram’s second quarter fumble could have turned the tide. Turnovers like this can be backbreakers by giving teams an extra possession inside the red zone. Fortunately the Rams turned over on downs after attempting a fake field goal. Ingram appeared to hurt his elbow on the play as well.

-The defense didn’t force a punt until 4:50 left in the game. The only time the Rams were stopped was on the failed field goal fake, and a missed field goal. Yes this is the consensus best team in the NFC, but NO PUNTS?!?

The Ugly

-The secondary continues to give up chunk plays. A 33 yard pass led to Rams first touchdown and a 48 yard pass to former Saint Brandin Cooks led to their second score. The ineptness of the pass rush, everyone not named Cameron Jordan or Sheldon Rankins, has contributed to this all season.

-This team continues to relax at the wrong moments. With 26 seconds before halftime, they gave up a field goal. When the Rams got the ball to start the second half, they gave up their first two third down conversions en route to a touchdown. That 21-0 run tied the game. On the offenses only two possessions in that run, they gained a total of 50 yards and punted twice.

- Jared Goff went 28 of 40 for 391 yards, three touchdowns, one pick, and didn’t get sacked. The pick took an unbelievably athletic play by linebacker Alex Anzalone, otherwise it likely would’ve been another completion. The Saints can’t continue this pace of giving up 300-400 yards passing on 70% completion to opposing teams.

At 7-1 and in control of home field advantage in the NFC, it's a great place to be. Especially when you start the season losing 48-40 at home to division rival Tampa. There were certainly some plays that could have swung this game either way. The Saints simply did a better job of managing their mistakes and capitalizing on risks. Special shoutout to Michael Thomas for paying tribute to all-time Saints great Joe Horn with his touchdown celebration.

 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF O'BRIEN'S COACHING

Not my job: Texans no match for the Ravens

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Texans fell to the Ravens 33-16 in a game they had a shot at winning. Most of you reading this will probably think I'm crazy for saying that. I assure you, I meant what I said. One of the reasons they didn't was because Bill O'Brien made a few questionable decisions that cost this team.

The first was the 4th & 1 decision. Deciding to go for it was bad enough. They were down 3-0 near the end of the first quarter with the ball on their own 34-yard line. This is not a situation that calls for a gamble or statement play. The play call itself was okay I guess: a play action bootleg with two short options. It was read and played perfectly by the Ravens defense. Deshaun Watson had nowhere to go with the ball and had to throw it at Darren Fells' back before getting sacked. That led to a quick Ravens touchdown and an early 10-0 deficit. I seriously think he has PTSD after that playoff loss to the Chiefs when it comes to fourth down calls. Bumbling Bill strikes again!

When they got the ball back, they scored a touchdown thanks to more play action passes and pre-snap motion. It was as if Bumbling Bill realized his offensive line was outmatched by the front seven they're opposing. Sure Watson is mobile and looks like a magician escaping sacks, but misdirection helps throw the defense off and keeps Watson from breaking into 177,000,000 pieces. Oh, and the quick reads were a good idea as well. Too bad Bumbling Bill went away from that and opted for longer developing routes. Or will he blame it on Timid Tim Kelly? Or was Waiting Watson holding onto the ball too long? I blame all three.

Also, can we stop starting drives with the predictable run, run, pass combo please? First down should be play action rollout with Watson having the ability to choose to run if it's there. More run/pass/option plays need to be called as well. Incorporate more things that we saw when Watson was on his way to winning rookie of the year before his knee was sacrificed for the Astros.

Credit where it's due: the end of the first half to get a field goal with a minute and change left was good to see. Typically, these situations tend to make Bumbling Bill come out. I liked the quick slant to Cobb with no timeouts. They were able to spike the ball and get the field goal up.

The game was still within reach at 23-13 in the beginning of the fourth quarter. On a 4th & 1, they gave up a 30 yard touchdown run on a direct snap to Mark Ingram. I saw gaps on both sides of the defensive line pre-snap. Sure enough, Ingram got a lead block from the Ravens human plough of a fullback and that effectively put the nail in the coffin at 30-13. I know the tendency is to quarterback sneak or run up the middle, but don't leave gaps along the defensive line trying to stack the middle. First time defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver will take the L on this one.

Overall, I'll give O'Brien and his coaching staff a C- this game. Mistakes were made that could've cost them a legit shot at winning, but the Keke Coutee fumble return for a touchdown wasn't their fault. The play calling menu was brought to us this week by Craft Pita via the "What's Eric Eating" podcast. Tune in next week for another "Not my job!"

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