Los Angeles – There were some good things that happened for the New Orleans Saints in their 26-20 loss to the Rams on Sunday at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which ended New Orleans' winning streak at eight games, tied for fourth-longest in franchise history. But there weren't nearly enough of them to extend the run for the Saints (8-3), who now head home for an NFC South Division showdown against Carolina (8-3) next Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
OFFENSE:Arguably, Sunday was the Saints' worst offensive performance of the season. New Orleans gained 346 yards, converted just 3 of 13 third-down attempts, totaled 14 first downs, ran just 52 plays and had a time of possession of 24:34. When you include that several of the seven penalties for 112 yards were accumulated by the offense, it gives a clearer picture as to how disjointed the Saints were against the Rams. Credit the Rams, who pressured Drew Breesand made his numbers (22 of 32 for 246 yards and a touchdown) seem a lot smaller than they were. Brees was sacked three times, the Rams dropped a couple of potential interceptions and forced a fumble on a sack that Saints offensive tackle Terron Armsteadrecovered. But it wasn't a banner day for Brees or his offensive line; possibly, the line hadn't performed to that level since the Saints' Week 2 loss to New England. The running game had solid numbers (17 carries for 123 yards), but Alvin Kamara's74-yard run accounted for more than half of it; the remaining 16 carries totaled 49 yards. The film session won't be pleasant.
DEFENSE:Frankly, the numbers may have been worse than the performance. The Rams scored 26 points and posted 415 yards, and quarterback Jared Goff (28 of 43 for 354 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception) had one of the best days of the season against the Saints' defense. But that defense was on the field for 73 plays and 35:26 of the 60-minute game, and it wasn't all because it failed to get off the field on third down (Los Angeles was 3 of 14 on third-down attempts). There wasn't enough complementary football for the Saints on Sunday, with the Saints' offense failing to find a groove. However, defensively, the Saints also committed their share of debilitating penalties (safety Kenny Vaccaropicked up two that helped the Rams produce a drive for a field goal in the first quarter, and cornerback P.J. Williamswas penalized for pass interference on another drive that resulted in a field goal in the third quarter). Starting cornerbacks Marshon Lattimoreand Ken Crawleywere missed, but the defense wasn't as weak a link as the numbers might suggest.
SPECIAL TEAMS:Any time the kicker (Wil Lutz) and punter (Thomas Morstead) are forced to make what amounts to touchdown-saving tackles, it's a bad day for the cover teams. That happened Sunday. Rams returner Pharoh Cooper took back the opening kickoff 40 yards before Lutz tossed his body into the fray to help bring him down, and Cooper popped a 40-yard punt return before Morstead threw his body into the action to jam up the run. Otherwise, Cooper (27.5-yard average on four kickoff returns, 19.7 on three punt returns) might have scored on each play. Those hidden yards flip field position and put a defense on its heels before it can set foot on the field. Otherwise, Lutz was perfect on two field-goal attempts and Morstead (seven punts for a 53-yard gross and 44.6-yard net, with two downed inside the 20) was outstanding.