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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Walter will host The Night of Champions. Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images.

In 2014, Austin Walter rushed for 2,704 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior at Crosby High School. Despite falling short of a state title, Walter was named District 19-4A MVP and finished his prep career with a little over 6,000 rushing yards on 613 carries (6,062 yds). Seven years later, Walter will be returning to his high school alma mater to give back to the community that laid the foundation for an NFL career as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

"It's a blessing to be able to come from a small town and be one of the guys who made it out," Walter said. "Not a lot of people made it to the NFL or the NBA from Crosby High School. To be one of the first, it's an amazing feeling. It's a blessing and an honor."

On Thursday, April 15, Walter will host The Night of Champions to benefit the Crosby High School Booster Club from 6-9 p.m. The event will be a weight lifting competition at Crosby High School for student-athletes around the area to showcase their talents and abilities.

In addition to hosting a weight lifting showcase, Walter will also share his life teachings with student-athletes in attendance. Perseverance and not taking no for an answer will be one of the most vital messages the Crosby native will share with aspiring pro-athletes. It's the two virtues Walter has leaned on from little league football to the NFL. And as an undrafted prospect in 2019, it was that same morale that helped him outshine six other running backs during the 49ers rookie training camp that same year.

"Before I started playing football in high school, a lot of people thought I was too small," Walter said. "They thought because we played little league and not in middle school we would not make it in high school. My twin brother [Ashton Walter] and I did not listen to that. We just kept pushing forward."

"When I left Rice, people thought I was going to play in the Canadian league or AFF, and I did not take no for an answer. I believed in myself. And I believed in God. And if I can make it out of a small town like Crosby, anybody can make it...It's the mentality I've had my entire life of not quitting. I feel like that is what got me to the point I am at right now."

Whether their life goal is to play in the NFL or not, Walter's primary objective for The Night of Champions is to be an inspiration and show kids they can find success despite their environment. It is one of the things the former XFL running back (Dallas Renegades) wished he would have seen growing up in Crosby.

After graduating from Crosby High School, Walter went on to have a record-breaking collegiate career at Rice University. He became one of two players in school history to rush for over 1,500 yards (1,744 yds.) and 1,000 kick return yards (1,548 yds.) in four seasons with the Owls. In February, Walter signed a one-year contract extension to re-join the 49ers ahead of the 2021 NFL season.

Click here to learn more about The Night of Champions at Crosby High School or support Walter and the Crosby High School Booster Club.

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