I'm still trying to catch my breath.
So are you.
A 45-35 victory by the New Orleans Saints (7-1), to give the Rams (8-1) their first loss of the season Sunday afternoon in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, was about as exhilarating as the score indicates. New Orleans' seventh straight victory, and fourth this season against a team that was leading its division at the time of their meeting, perhaps solidified the Saints as the top dog in the conference.
Sure, there's a ton of football left to play and, absolutely, the Saints' schedule has no let-up in it. But as of Sunday, the Saints took the head-to-head advantage against the Rams while staying atop the NFC South Division. And New Orleans showed again that when it comes to winning, there's no method that it can't employ.
It was a banner day for many.
OFFENSE: You almost could pull a name out of a hat and not be wrong. Drew Brees (25 of 36 for 346 yards and four touchdowns, with no interceptions) was almost comically precise. Alvin Kamara (19 carries for 82 yards and two touchdowns, four catches for 34 yards and a touchdown) is a human cheat code. The work of the offensive line continues to rank among the best in the league, if it's not the best, period. But Michael Thomas owned the Rams' secondary. Just, owned it. The third-year receiver had his best ever day, a franchise-record 211 receiving yards and a touchdown on 12 catches. His 72-yard touchdown broke open the game and provided the final margin of victory (I'm guessing that Coach Sean Payton wasn't all that happy with the personal foul penalty Thomas picked up after the score; the Joe Horn cellphone celebration was a nice throwback tribute, but it would've been nicer with a 20-plus point cushion). That was the lone blemish on an otherwise dominating performance that will not soon be forgotten.
DEFENSE: Linebacker Alex Anzalone is showing a nose for the football at the right time. Last Sunday against Minnesota, he forced a fumble before halftime that the Saints recovered and converted into a touchdown. Against Los Angeles, his acrobatic, fingertip interception with 66 seconds left in the second quarter, at the Rams' 36-yard line, allowed the Saints to expand their 28-14 lead. New Orleans turned that turnover, too, into a touchdown and stretched its advantage to 35-14. The interception was the Saints' lone turnover forced, but it evened the takeaway margin and it helped New Orleans build on its first-half momentum.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A lot of people were fooled when, on fourth-and-4 from the Saints' 16-yard line in the second quarter, the Rams elected to fake their field-goal attempt with holder Johnny Hekker. Craig Robertson wasn't one of them. When Hekker picked up the snap and starting running to his right, it looked for all the world that he easily would pick up the first down. The hustling Robertson wouldn't allow it, and met the Rams' punter just inches short of the first down marker. That tackle, with the score tied at 14-14, culminated a stand that might have been the difference in the game. The Saints, no doubt, would've settled for allowing a field goal after Mark Ingram's fumble was recovered at their 22-yard line. Instead, they wound up allowing nothing as the defense held the Rams to six yards on the first three plays, and Robertson tracked down Hekker before he could convert on the fake field goal.