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Monday, December 13, 2010
Around the NFC West: Rams play to script

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' game at New Orleans played out as expected during a 31-13 defeat in the Superdome. Miklasz: "The Rams (6-7) completed a three-game road stretch Sunday and went 2-1 in their travels. I'd imagine that most of us would've gladly accepted a 2-1 record at the outset of this expedition. And we already know that the NFC West is a big pile of steaming mediocrity, and that the Rams have flaws. We know that they're not ready to duke it out with the big boys, having been knocked down by Atlanta (11-2) and New Orleans (10-3) in recent weeks. That's all been established. But in terms of what it means for this season and a potential happy ending for the Rams, Sunday's loss didn't change a thing. The Rams are still in position to not only make the playoffs, but to host a playoff game. And -- believe it or not -- this same New Orleans Saints might have to come to St. Louis for the postseason, and a rematch." I think that's the right take. The Rams should have expected a little more from Sam Bradford and even Steven Jackson; both players suffered key turnovers. Overall, however, this game went to script.

Also from Miklasz, with Bryan Burwell: quick thoughts following the game.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers a Rams report card with a C-minus grade for Bradford. I thought Bradford might fare a little better against the Saints after watching Matt Hasselbeck pick apart their defense a few weeks ago. The interception Bradford threw in the red zone proved crushing. The Saints returned it 96 yards for a touchdown. The potential 14-point swing prevented the Rams from keeping the game close.

Also from Coats: a long list of defensive injuries put the Rams at an even greater disadvantage Sunday.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Jackson expressed pride but mixed emotions after reaching 1,000 yards rushing for the sixth season in a row. Thomas: "And on the play in which Jackson actually went over 1,000 yards for the season -- a 20-yard gain in the first quarter -- he fumbled for the first time this season. New Orleans recovered at its 39 and marched 61 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead."

Also from Thomas: The Saints made the pivotal plays Sunday.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the Rams appeared to avoid serious injuries against the Saints. Also: "The Rams clearly missed RB Kenneth Darby on third downs, where he is helpful in blitz pickup. He missed the game with a rib injury. ... Something has to give for the offense in the red zone. They have really struggled in recent weeks to punch it in for touchdowns and have been settling for a lot of field goal attempts. To win this division, that must improve."

Nakia Hogan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune checks in with Bradford and the Saints for thoughts on how the Rams' rookie quarterback played Sunday. Bradford on the interception returned for a touchdown: "To be honest, I thought I had it, but I just wasn't able to put enough on the ball." Saints coach Sean Payton: "He is having a very good season as a young player. He shows you all the things you want and hope for as an organization with your first-round pick."

James Varney of the New Orleans Times-Picayune says Bradford's ability to chase down Saints safety Roman Harper stood out as a memorable play Sunday even though the play wound up not counting.