Finally, the New Orleans Saints had some offensive momentum.
Finally, after a day of fits and starts, the operation was smooth and efficient, with the Los Angeles Rams on their heels defensively and the Saints advancing toward a touchdown that would make Sunday’s game a one-score affair, with plenty of time left for New Orleans to get a defensive stop and another touchdown and, perhaps, to escape Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with its ninth consecutive win of the season.
Trailing 23-10, facing second-and-goal from the Rams’ 3-yard line with 11:42 left in the game, Drew Brees flipped a pass to running back Mark Ingram II in the right flat and Ingram easily outran pursuing defenders to the front pylon.
Except…tight end Michael Hoomanawanui was penalized for offensive pass interference on the play. Hooman was a major influence on why Ingram was wide open, and able to score with little opposition.
The 10-yard penalty backed up the Saints to the 13-yard line and though Brees completed a 9-yard pass to Willie Snead on second-and-goal from the 13, his completion to Michael Thomas in the right flat on third-and-goal perfectly was played by Rams cornerback Kayvon Webster.
Webster made a solo, form tackle to stop Thomas for a 1-yard gain, and to put the Saints at fourth-and-goal from the 3. It was one of 10 times that the Saints failed to convert in 13 third-down attempts.
There, New Orleans opted for the safer score – a 21-yard field goal by Wil Lutz – rather than the lesser-sure, fourth-down attempt.
The inability to get in the end zone, from first-and-goal at the 5, was pivotal on a day when points were at a premium and a touchdown might have swung momentum in favor of New Orleans’ struggling offense.
Time (10:05) and opportunity still remained, but the Saints needed that score to force the pressure onto Los Angeles and to bolster the offense’s confidence.