Sunday, October 30, 2011
Wrap-up: Rams 31, Saints 21
By Mike Sando
Thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' 31-21 victory against New Orleans in Week 8:
What it means: The Rams scored one of the biggest upsets of this NFL season, giving them a badly needed boost heading into an easier portion of their schedule. The Rams saw encouraging developments on multiple fronts. This outcome gives them hope for a strong finish to the season, particularly once quarterback Sam Bradford returns from a high-ankle sprain. This game takes the heat off coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney for the time being, at least.
What I liked: The Rams, though badly outmatched based on how the teams had performed before Week 8, were competitive from the start. Their defense kept them in the game early. Rookie Greg Salas' 17-yard reception on fourth-and-2 moved the Rams into position for the field goal that gave them a 3-0 lead. Rookie first-round pick Robert Quinn, who blocked a field-goal try during preseason, blocked a punt in this game, setting up a Steven Jackson touchdown run for a 10-0 lead. Jackson dominated with his running, topping 150 yards. The workload showed he's fully recovered from the quadriceps injury he suffered in Week 1. Chris Long had three sacks, a breakout game. Quinn also got pressure as a pass-rusher at times. The Rams played with attitude. Their defense, despite playing without all its top corners, somehow prevented Drew Brees from building on his five-touchdown game against Indy. Safety Darian Stewart's interception return for a touchdown to close out the Saints provided the proper punctuation to a game the Rams dominated.
What I didn't like: Quarterback A.J. Feeley, subbing for Bradford, missed Brandon Lloyd twice on consecutive plays that should have produced touchdowns. Lloyd dropped a pass to kill a drive in the fourth quarter when the Rams needed to sustain drives. I could go through the game picking nits, but why? The Rams easily could have mailed it in for this game. Bradford's injury gave them an out. They did not do that. They deserve credit for that. Brees' scoring pass in the final seconds made the game appear closer.
Streak ends: Until this game, the Rams had not run an offensive play all season while leading on the scoreboard. The 2005 Houston Texans did not run an offensive play while leading until Week 7 that season. The Rams can finally put to rest this dubious streak.
What's next: The Rams visit the Arizona Cardinals in Week 9.