The New Orleans Saints are one of the elite teams in the NFL, with a decent defense mainly backed by a dynamic offense led by record-breaking QB Drew Brees. But when they stepped into the Edward Jones Dome, they looked like a shell of their usual team domination, taking on a Rams’ squad that is out of the playoff race, and really has nothing to fight for. Aside from winning games.
And that’s exactly what St. Louis did on Sunday.
It isn’t the first time St. Louis has had a backup QB take on Brees and the Saints and come out the victor. It was two years ago that St. Louis was 0-6 and faced another red-hot Saints team, this time with A.J Feeley. They pulled off the upset 31-21. St. Louis finished that season a dismal 2-14, while the Saints finished 13-3.
While St. Louis is obviously going to finish better than 2-14 (they were 5-8 heading into Sunday’s game), there was no doubt they were not predicted to win against this elite offense of the Saints.
Unfortunately for the Saints, St. Louis couldn’t care less about the pre-game “predictions”.
On the first snap of the game, Brees was intercepted. It set the tone for the rest of the game, as, with a combined effort from the offense and defense, and stronger play by struggling QB Kellen Clemens, St. Louis defeated the Saints 27-16 in a thriller Week 15 match-up. Saints head coach Sean Payton made switches with the offensive line, as the stout St. Louis pass rush, led by NFC sack-king Robert Quinn, pressured Brees early and quickly, forcing him to make throws he normally would not make.
In the first quarter, Clemens threw for two touchdowns, one of them to third-string tight end Cory Harkey, who bulldozed his way through Saints’ defenders en route to a touchdown that put St. Louis ahead 7-0. Despite being injured with a hurt hip in the game’s early moments, rookie running back Zac Stacy took full advantage of New Orleans’ lackluster defense, rushing 28 times for 133 yards. Stacy eventually set the Rams’ rookie record with 106 yards before halftime.
Another notable “feud” in this game was between the Rams and Saints D.C Rob Ryan. Ryan was given an extended interview in St. Louis back in January, but the Rams organization changed their minds and course of direction and sent Ryan on his way, where he later signed with New Orleans.
Clemens had a much more decent performance than in the past weeks, going 14/20 for 158 yards and a pair of touchdowns. But it was the defense that truly shined on Sunday. T.J McDonald picked off Brees on his first snap, giving the Rams excellent field position. And coming into the game, Brees had a streak of 166 red-zone drives without a turnover (interception). That streak ended, as Trumaine Johnson picked him off in the end-zone to give St. Louis the ball back.
In the fourth quarter, the Saints tried to mount a comeback, cutting the deficit from 27-9 to 27-16 (failed two point conversion), but that’s all the Rams defense would allow. With a few ticks left on the clock, Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers blocked Garrett Hartley‘s 36 yard field goal attempt. The Saints released him two days later. After the kneel down, the crowd erupted in the Edward Jones Dome, as once again, St. Louis upset the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints fell to 10-4, but are still in control of the NFC South with a key match-up against the Panthers this Sunday.
The win moves St. Louis to a respectable 6-8, and while they are out of the playoffs, and the streak of non-winning seasons will officially reach a decade regardless, the win shows just the amount of talent the Rams actually have. They are a young team with a bright future in arguably the toughest division in the NFL. With Bradford back, the Rams are destined to make some noise in the NFC next season, and in the seasons beyond. They face Tampa Bay next week, then head to Seattle for the season finale. (Photo by Official St. Louis Rams)