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