Check out the Saints vs. Rams action at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
OFFENSE: The New Orleans Saints punted to end their first possession and lost a fumble to complete the third. Otherwise, you'll have to squint while looking through a telescope in order to see fault with much of anything they did offensively in a 49-21 victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. New Orleans scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions after the lost fumble – twice, they scored on fourth-and-1, on a 10-yard run by Mark Ingramand a 1-yard leap by Drew Brees. And after they failed to score in the final 55 seconds of the first half, they posted touchdowns on three of their first four possessions of the second half, the highlight being a 50-yard lateral-and-pass – Brees threw a pass to receiver Willie Sneadbehind the line of scrimmage to the left, and Snead lobbed a perfect spiral diagonally across the field to running back Tim Hightower, who juked one defender and outran another to the end zone. This was a fun game to watch the Saints offense: seven touchdowns, 5-for-5 in the red zone, 555 yards of offense, 35:56 time of possession. Brees completed 78 percent of his passes (28 of 36) for 310 yards and four touchdowns, without an interception; Ingram ran for 146 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, and caught a 21-yard touchdown pass; and rookie receiver Michael Thomascaught nine passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns. After a pair of games against sticky defenses – 23 points against Denver, 20 against Carolina – the Saints saved their best offensive performance of the season for a defense that only was allowing 18.7 points per game before Sunday. New Orleans reminded of how potent it can be on any given day.
DEFENSE: It took a half for the Saints to find their footing defensively, but it was impressive how they collected themselves in the second half. Rams rookie quarterback Jared Goffwas pedestrian in his debut seven days earlier (17 of 31 for 134 yards and no touchdowns against Miami); he had surpassed that output by halftime in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against New Orleans (12 of 20 for 167 yards and three touchdowns). But the Saints applied plenty of heat in the second half, when Goff completed 8 of 12 passes for just 47 yards, with no touchdowns and an interception, and he was sacked twice. And in addition to rattling Goff, they shut down the Rams' running game, holding Todd Gurleyto 50 yards on 13 carries. New Orleans finished with three sacks (linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, defensive end Cam Jordanand defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins), four tackles for loss, two passes defensed, a forced fumble (Rankins), a fumble recovery (defensive end Paul Kruger) and an interception (safety Kenny Vaccaro) and it pitched a shutout in the second half while the Saint offense added three touchdowns. For the sixth consecutive game, Dennis Allen'sdefense allowed 23 points or less and on Sunday, that was more than good enough. The unit, which allowed just 247 yards, continues to trend in the right direction.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Nothing disastrous happened that directly contributed to the Rams' scoring points, so that made Sunday a really good day for the Saints on special teams. Wil Lutzonly had to kick PATs on Sunday and he made all seven, and Thomas Morsteadwas fine other than two of his punts reaching the end zone (those are net-yardage killers; he averaged 44.8 yards gross on four punts, but 32.8 net yards). The kickoff cover team won't be thrilled with what it sees on film (Rams running back Bennie Cunninghamreturned five kickoffs for a 32.6-yard average), and the Saints' return team provided more drama than it desired – Tommylee Lewismuffed a punt in the third quarter with the Saints leading 42-21, but Shiloh Keorecovered and the Saints drove 81 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing possession. But any relatively quiet day – i.e., no kicks being blocked and no returns being allowed for touchdowns – is a good day for the Saints on special teams. There's still work to be done, but at least the work is to be done following a victory.