Saints vs Rams: Observations

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

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.

 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
Astros defeat the A's, 6-3. Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

Jake Meyers hit a three-run homer to highlight Houston's six-run fourth inning that backed Justin Verlander's winning start, and the Astros beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3 on Friday night.

Verlander (3-2) struck out nine over six innings to increase hit total to 3,377, passing Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (3,371) for 10th on the career strikeouts list. He gave up two runs — one earned — on eight hits and didn't walk a batter for a second straight start and seventh time this year.

After another milestone to add to a long list of them, Verlander wasn't sure exactly how to feel.

“I feel like I should be more excited but I feel like I’m a little more introspective and reflective,” Verlander said. “A lot of sacrifices you make in this game, a lot of time away from the family, but I love it, so it’s pretty amazing. I don’t know if as a 21- or 22-year-old kid in professional baseball if I’d thought I’d be in the top-10 in anything. This sport’s been around for so long. Hard to put into words, but a lot of thoughts, a lot of thoughts went through my mind.”

When his teammates celebrated him once the special outing had ended, Verlander allowed himself to ponder the meaning.

Verlander remembers his first strikeout and he recalls one against Hall of Fame slugger Frank Thomas here at the Coliseum — and the pitcher wears No. 35 because of Thomas.

“I have a lot of great memories here,” he said.

A's manager Mark Kotsay, a former Oakland outfielder, has been witness to some of those.

“He’s just tough. He’s a Hall of Fame pitcher. He knows his game plan and he executes it really well," Kotsay said. "He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes.”

Yordan Alvarez added an RBI double and Josh Hader finished the 2-hour, 31-minute game with his seventh save for the Astros, who began a seven-game road trip.

After right-hander Ross Stripling (1-9) retired the first nine Houston hitters in order, Jose Altuve singled to start the fourth for the first of four straight hits that included Alex Bregman's two-run single.

The A's drew an announced crowd of 9,676 for the series opener after winning two of three against Colorado following an eight-game losing streak.

Miguel Andujar came off the injured list and immediately hit an RBI single in the first off Verlander and finished with three hits in his A's and season debut — including another run-scoring single in the seventh.

Andjuar's RBI marked the first time the A's have scored first in 18 games — ending the longest streak in franchise history. Batting cleanup, he also singled in the third.

Astros left fielder Chas McCormick robbed Max Schuemann of an extra-base hit when he crashed into the wall to make a great catch ending the eighth.

“That was a big play at the moment,” manager Joe Espada said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP José Urquidy was pulled from his rehab start with Triple-A Sugar Land because of right forearm discomfort. He has been on the injured list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. ... 1B José Abreu is scheduled to rejoin the club Monday in Seattle after playing at least two games with Triple-A Sugar Land as he works to regain his hitting rhythm.

Athletics: Andujar had been sidelined all season after having meniscus surgery on his right knee. He was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on Nov. 6. Oakland created roster room by optioning INF Brett Harris to Triple-A Las Vegas.

UP NEXT

RHP Spencer Arrighetti (2-4, 7.16 ERA) pitches for the Astros in the middle game opposite A's LHP JP Sears (3-3, 4.31).

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome