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John DeShazier: Saints Coach Sean Payton points out lack of offensive rhythm in loss to Rams

Defensive third-down numbers a positive, coach says

First of two game action galleries from the Saints vs Rams in Week 12.

As expected, the game tape from the New Orleans Saints' 26-20 loss to the Rams on Sunday wasn't much kinder Monday than was the immediate assessment of play at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The Saints (8-3), who hadn't lost since Sept. 17, had their eight-game winning streak broken. New Orleans had won four straight on the road, and hadn't dropped a game away from Mercedes-Benz Superdome since it lost the regular-season opener against Minnesota.

"There were some good things on defense, going through the tape," Coach Sean Payton said Monday afternoon in a teleconference with local media. "I thought our third-down numbers were good (Los Angeles converted just 3 of 14 third-down attempts).

"We allowed a handful of explosives, more than we'd like, in regards to big plays. We lost that field position battle, especially in the first half, and offensively we really struggled to maintain any type of semblance of a rhythm, whether it was the third downs we weren't converting (3 of 13) or the down-and-distance themselves that we weren't handling. We had a few penalties that hurt us in some drives. But it was too inconsistent overall."

Penalties and the failure to win one-on-one battles hampered the offense. One week after producing 34 points and 535 yards in a three-point, overtime victory over Washington, the Saints managed 20 points and 346 yards.

"It was kind of a combination of both of those things," Payton said. "We moved the ball early on and then, we give up a sack and all of a sudden we're in a longer yardage situation. Just when we would take a couple steps forward, it seemed like we were taking a step back.

"All of us collectively, myself included, have got to be better with our timing and sequences. I felt like we were sloppy with some formations. But overall, you never felt like there was any type of rhythm. The time of possession was leaned heavily in their favor (35:26 to 24:34), they did a good job of possessing the ball and conversely, we didn't.

"Your numbers are going to be way down when you're converting three or four third downs in a game like that. You're not going to have the amount of carries you want, you're not going to have the amount of plays you want. That's what happens when you have one of those games, especially on third down."

KAMARA'S ENGINE:Rookie running back Alvin Kamaracontinued to bolster his resume for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He dazzled against the Rams – 87 yards (including a 74-yard touchdown) on five carries, and six catches for 101 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown. Kamara has a team-leading nine touchdowns, has scored a touchdown in five straight games (a franchise rookie record) and is four touchdowns shy of tying George Rogers'franchise rookie single-season record of 13, set in 1981.

"You go through that process and like any draft, if you re-drafted today, I'm sure his selection and round would be entirely different," Payton said of Kamara, a third-round pick (No. 67 overall).

"Fortunately, we saw enough good things and had a vision for him and he's been able to adjust and adapt quickly to the speed of the game at this level. Really, he has proven himself to be good not only as a receiver coming out of the backfield, but in some of those runs that you're seeing. There were a few times a year ago on film – you didn't get to see as many carries, because he was splitting time – but certainly, you saw his ball skills and we're fortunate to have him."

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