St. Louis - The New Orleans Saints fell to the St. Louis Rams 27-16 on Sunday as the Rams took advantage of two early interceptions to take control of the game. The loss dropped the Saints to 10-4 and prevented them from securing a playoff spot.
New Orleans is tied atop the NFC South with the Carolina Panthers (10-4), who defeated the Jets 30-20 on Sunday. The teams meet next Sunday in Charlotte. If the Saints win that game they will clinch not only a playoff spot but the division and the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
The Rams (6-8) disrupted the Saints early and often with continual pressure, most coming from right defensive end Robert Quinn. He hit Saints quarterback Drew Brees on the Saints' first play, forcing Brees' pass to come up short and be intercepted by T.J. McDonald. On the next play Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens hit tight end Corey Harkey down the right sideline and Harkey broke a couple of tackles to turn into a 31-yard touchdown.
Brees marched the Saints down the field on the next possession only to have his pass picked off by Trumaine Johnson at the goal line as Brees was trying to get the ball to Jimmy Graham!(/team/roster/jimmy-graham/f98a654e-2c03-423a-b636-4282d9f1b561/ "Jimmy Graham")Curtis Lofton![" title="Curtis Lofton" />Malcolm Jenkins![" title="Malcolm Jenkins" />!). Clemens capped the drive with a 4-yard TD toss to Lance Kendricks.
The Rams then surprised the Saints with an onside kick and recovered it and turned it into a 31-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal, the first of two he made, and a 17-0 lead.
Kicker Garrett Hartley got the Saints on the scoreboard with a 45-yard field goal but had a 36-yard field blocked at the end of the second quarter.
The Saints tried to mount a challenge early in the third quarter but Quinn sacked Brees, forced a fumble and recovered it. Quinn, who finished with two sacks, caused such blocking headaches for the Saints that Zach Strief moved from right to left tackle and Bryce Harris took over at right tackle with starter Charles Brown benched.
The Saints finally scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter when Brees dived over from a yard away. The two-point conversion failed. New Orleans added another touchdown when Brees hit Marques Colston with a 5-yard TD pass with 3:07 left. The Saints then grabbed the onside kick but Hartley's 21-yard field-goal attempt appeared to be tipped and went left.
Brees was 39 of 56 for 393 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Colston was the team's leading receiver with eight catches for 92 yards.
Clemens had a solid performance for the Rams, completing 14 of 20 passes for 158 yards and two TDs. Running back Zac Stacey was a workhorse, running the ball 27 times for 133 yards and a 40-yard touchdown.
Penalties also were a problem for the Saints as they were flagged for seven for 72 yards. The Saints struggled on third down converting just 5 of 14 but they were 4 for 4 on fourth down attempts. The Rams were an efficient 7 of 13 on third down. The announced crowd at the Edward Jones Dome was 58,442.