New Orleans had an impressive efficiency on offense, featured by three touchdown passes, along with a nose for the ball, by forcing three turnovers, including a 96-yard interception return for a touchdown that gave the Saints a 31-13 win over the St. Louis Rams. It was New Orleans' sixth straight win. At 10-3, they now have the second-best record in the NFC, but remain one game behind the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional race.
"That's a good team we played, " said Saints Head Coach Sean Payton. "They're a lot better than the team we've seen (the last time). Now we have to get ready for another tough opponent."
The Saints jumped out to a 14-0 lead on a pair of touchdown passes from QB Drew Brees to WR Marques Colston and left for the locker room at halftime with a 21-6 lead following a 96-yard interception return for a touchdown by S Malcolm Jenkins.
"It was a good play by Malcolm," said Payton. "We turned the ball over on the kickoff return and there could have been a swing."
The New Orleans offense successfully converted 11 of 16 third down attempts (69%), while the defense held the Rams to a 9% percentage (1-11) on third down. Jenkins had a career-best two interceptions, including his first NFL touchdown. New Orleans allowed rookie QB Sam Bradford to complete only 18-of-32 passes and a 53.0 passer rating.
"(Finishing) was an emphasis this week," said Jenkins. "The past couple times we let teams back in the game. I thought we did a good job on offense, defense and special teams of finishing them off."
The contest started with WR Courtney Roby taking the kickoff out of the end zone and returning it to the 28-yard line. The first play from scrimmage was a five-yard throw from Brees to TE Jeremy Shockey for a five-yard gain. On second down, Brees tossed a screen to RB Pierre Thomas in his first appearance since week three, good for five yards and the first down. With the fresh set of downs, he threw a laser to WR Colston in the middle for a six-yard gain. RB Chris Ivory then got his first carry and barreled up the middle for an 11-yard gain. On the new first down, RB Reggie Bush took a screen for a seven-yard gain. Following an incomplete pass, a nine-yard throw to WR Lance Moore moved the chains once again. Following a rush for no gain by Ivory, Brees found Shockey for an eight-yard gain. Ivory then moved up to the St. Louis ten, breaking several tackles with an 11-yard gain. Following a one-yard run by Ivory, Brees completed a four-yard pass to TE David Thomas to set up third and goal from the five. The drive ended on third down with a five-yard touchdown pass to Colston in the back end of the end zone.
St. Louis took the ball at their 18 and opened with rookie QB Sam Bradford handing off to RB Steven Jackson for a four-yard gain. Bradford then completed a ten-yard pass to TE Daniel Fells. Following an incomplete pass, Jackson carried for a 20-yard gain, but S Roman Harper popped the ball out of his hands and it was picked up by CB Jabari Greer.
New Orleans would start at their 39 and after a pair of runs by Pierre Thomas and Ivory ended up gaining two yards, Brees found Moore for a 12-yard gain on third down. Bush accounted for 13 yards from scrimmage on three straight plays to account for the next touchdown. On first and ten at the 34, Ivory ran around the right side and to the 16-yard line. Ivory then advanced to the 12 with a four-yard rush. Brees then helped the Saints move inside the ten with a nine-yard throw to Pierre Thomas. At first and goal from the three, a pass to the front corner of the end zone was broken up by a Rams defender. Pierre Thomas then carried for a one-yard gain to the two. On third down, Brees had completed a pass to TE Jimmy Graham in the end zone, but New Orleans was assessed 15 yards for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Pushed back, a 17-yard thrown to Colston in the end zone was completed to put New Orleans up 14-0.
Following the kickoff, St. Louis would take the ball back at the 20. Rams WR Brandon Gibson took an end around 13 yards on the final play of the quarter. A long pass play to Jackson put the Rams in Saints territory, but the Saints were able to pressure Bradford into an incompletion in the red zone, forcing a 38-yard field goal by St. Louis K Josh Brown.
New Orleans started their first drive of the second quarter at their 19. Brees' first throw of the drive, intended for Shockey was incomplete. On second down, Brees handed off to Bush, who went around the left side for a nine-yard gain. On third and one, Moore was clutch once again with a third down reception for the first down. Bush then moved into Rams territory on a rush towards his left where he gained 15 yards and then the Rams were assessed for a facemask penalty. At the 39, a pass for WR Robert Meachem was ruled incomplete. The Saints would only gain six more yards and on a fourth and four, the Saints went for it and Meachem was unable to hold onto a throw giving the Rams the ball back at their 34.
However, LB Jonathan Vilma made an impact play where he sacked Bradford on the first down and forced him to drop the ball until it was recovered by Jackson at the 12, where the Rams lost 22 yards. 16 yards were gained back on a 16-yard scamper by Jackson. However on third down, a pass by Bradford to Rams WR Danny Amendola resulted in only a ten-yard gain, forcing the Rams to punt, where Bush called for a fair catch at the 13.
On first down, Bush ran across the right side for a four-yard gain. After a second down throw was incomplete, a third down completion to Graham moved the Saints to the 38 with a 17-yard gain. Brees then stayed with the tight ends and Shockey had a seven-yard grab. At second and three, Colston caught a ball for a seven-yard gain to move the Saints to the Rams 48. With a fresh set of downs, a first down throw to Colston was incomplete. On second and ten, a Brees pass was intercepted by Rams CB Bradley Fletcher and returned to the St. Louis 43.
With the Rams taking the ball, DT Remi Ayodele was called for a five-yard encroachment penalty. On first and five at the 48, Jackson ran left for a two-yard gain before he was stopped by LB Danny Clark. On second down and three at midfield, Bradford found Gibson for a 23-yard gain to advance to the New Orleans 27. Following the two-minute warning, Bradford dropped back before a quarterback hit by DE Alex Brown and a pass for WR Danario Alexander was incomplete. On second down, a pass intended for WR Laurent Robinson was broken up by Greer. Facing a third and ten and an electrifying crowd, a handoff to Jackson was stopped for no gain as he was stopped by Brown and DL Anthony Hargrove. New Orleans took a timeout prior to the 45-yard field goal by Brown, ensuring they would get the back with 1:47 on the clock allowing them to run their two-minute offense.
Roby took the ball out of the endzone, but it was punched out of his hands by LB Britt Miller and recovered by St. Louis S Darian Stewart, giving the Rams the ball back at the 21-yard line. More importantly, Roby was injured on the play and had to be carried off the field on a stretcher. After a ten-minute delay while Roby was attended to, Jackson rushed for a four-yard gain, before being stopped by Vilma. However, Bradford would receive a rookie initiation from a sophomore on the next play, when S Jenkins picked off his throw at the four yard line and returned it 96 yards to the give the Saints a 21-6 lead. It was the fourth-longest interception return in club record books.
New Orleans would St. Louis to punt once more and the Rams punted to where it was downed at the Saints one, but a run by Thomas would close out the half.
St. Louis started the second half at their 24 and Bradford began by handing off to their workhorse Jackson, who ran ahead for one yard before being dropped by Ayodele and then throwing a pass out of bounds intended for Robinson. Jenkins broke up the third down throw to send the Rams punt unit out. Bush fielded the punt at the 17 and returned it to the 25, where the Saints would take the ball for the first time in the second half.
Brees came out throwing, but a Colston wasn't able to hold onto his first throw of the half. Bush took a handoff on second down and gained three yards to the Saints sideline. On third and seven, Brees' third down pass went through Colston's hands, forcing the punt unit out. Amendola fielded the punt at the 16, which he brought it back to the 32 for their starting position. Bradford completed a first down throw to Fells for a nine-yard gain. Jackson converted the first down on a four-yard run before he was brought down by Hargrove. Facing heavy pressure, Bradford completed a throw to Gibson that was advance to the New Orleans 23, a 32-yard gain. The first down handoff went to Jackson who was stopped by Harper and Ayodele for no gain. On second down, Rams LT Roger Saffold was called for a false start penalty, bringing them back five yards to the 28. On second and 15, an outlet throw was completed to TE Billy Bajema, but Greer stopped him for no gain. On third and 15, a throw for Robinson fell short of him, bringing Brown and the field goal unit back out, and the 46-yard attempt went wide left, giving New Orleans the ball back at the 36 yard line.
After a first down incompletion, Brees completed a throw for five yards to Bush. On third down, a throw to Moore down the middle advanced the ball to the Rams 46. Brees tried a long throw near the end zone to Meachem on the first down that was a near-miss. On second down, Bush took a carry for no gain. On third down, Brees completed the pass right at the chains to move them for the first down for an 11-yard gain. With first down at the 35, Pierre Thomas took a handoff for a four-yard gain. At second and six, Brees found a wide open Moore streaking for a 31-yard touchdown throw to put the Saints up 28-6.
The Rams started at the 20 and Bradford threw to Amendola, but he was stopped by CB Tracy Porter for a one-yard loss. On second down, Greer broke up a pass intended for Robinson. On an important third down, Harper came in on a blitz and sacked Bradford for a ten-yard loss. Rams P Donnie Jones punted to Bush who had a return to the Saints 40.
Brees threw on first down to Shockey for a nine-yard gain, and then Bush converted the first down with a two yard rush. Pierre Thomas then had a 14-yard rush, followed by a Brees scramble for seven. Thomas then converted the first down with a four-yard run and got nine more on a throw from Brees. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Bush carried, but David Thomas was called for holding. The Saints were unable to convert and K Garrett Hartley booted a 40-yard field goal to put the Saints above the 30 point mark for the fifth straight game.
Starting at the 20, the Rams moved the chains three times with a couple of long pass plays and two Jackson runs. With first and ten at the New Orleans 15, Jackson was handed off to again, but managed only one yard up the middle before he was stopped by DE Will Smith and DT Sedrick Ellis. Bradford completed a second down pass to Amendola, for a seven-yard gain setting up third and two at the seven. New Orleans continued their dominance on third down though as Jenkins picked off Bradford in the end zone and returned it to the nine-yard line.
Brees' first throw was incomplete. Bush then ran up the middle for a one-yard gain. A third down pass was intercepted by St. Louis S Craig Dahl at midfield. Vilma had a couple of tackles on pass plays that garnered only a two-yard gain, but a third down screen from Bradford to RB Keith Toston garnered a first down to the Saints 25. On the very next play, DE Jeff Charleston took down Bradford for an eight-yard loss. The fourth-year defensive end then batted down a Bradford pass on second down. With third down and 18, Bradford was unable to complete a pass, forcing the Rams to go for it on fourth down. On fourth down, the signal caller completed a 32-yard pass to Robinson before he was tackled at the one by Greer. On first down, Bradford handed off to Jackson, who was tackled by DL Jimmy Wilkerson and Clark for no gain. On second and goal from the one, Bradford tried play action, but he was forced out of the pocket and tossed an incomplete pass. On third down, Bradford handed off to Jackson and he fumbled. The ball was picked up by Harper and returned to the St. Louis 17-yard line. However following a St. Louis challenge it was ruled that Jackson down by contact. The Rams took advantage of the reversal and Bradford kept for the one-yard touchdown.
After the onside kick attempt went out of bounds, Pierre Thomas rushed for one first down on three runs, but on the next series, the Saints would be forced to punt after Brees was sacked on third down.
The Rams took the ball at the 31 and moved forward for one first down, but would stall from there as the game would conclude with the win for the Saints.