NEW ORLEANS –
– It’s often said that a single play or two in an NFL game can swing it in one team’s favor. In a game in which the final score was 31-13 in favor of one team, it wouldn’t seem that a single play made that much of a difference.
– But on Sunday at the Superdome, one play certainly did make that much of a difference.
– Malcolm Jenkins’ 96-yard interception return near the end of the first half not only swung the point differential in favor of the Saints but also the momentum and ultimately it was more than enough to give New Orleans a win.
– On the injury front, the Rams seemed to make it out of the game fairly clean though they were missing key players in the secondary that made things awfully difficult. LB David Nixon also injured his hand and might have a fracture though it was unclear until he has an X ray in St. Louis tomorrow.
– Cornerbacks Ron Bartell and Justin King missed the game because of shoulder ailments and without them, the Rams had to rely on Bradley Fletcher and a combination of Quincy Butler and Kevin Dockery.
– Jerome Murphy was active coming off a hamstring injury but didn’t play much as the Rams relied on extra safety Darian Stewart quite a bit.
– Back to the aforementioned play…
– The Rams had just kicked a field goal to cut it to 14-6 and Courtney Roby of New Orleans had just coughed up a kickoff return at the Saints 21.
– A 6-yard run by Steven Jackson set up a second down from the 15. Rams QB Sam Bradford dropped back and looked to the left. As pressure closed, though, Bradford was unable to set his feet and his throw intended for Brandon Gibson floated a little more than he would have liked. Jenkins stepped in front and raced 96 yards for a touchdown.
– For frame of reference to that play’s meaning, if the Rams even just settle for a field goal, it’s 14-9 at the half and the Rams get the ball with a chance to take the lead to open the second half with the ball. Instead, the Saints get the points and, at minimum, a 10-point swing.
– There were chances early in the third for the Rams to get back in the game but that play was the one that significantly altered the game.
– Congrats to Jackson for breaking the 1,000-yard mark for the sixth consecutive season. He did it on his 20-yard run in the first quarter but he fumbled on the play and New Orleans recovered.
– As expected, New Orleans unleashed myriad blitzes at Bradford. He threw two interceptions, including a bad one down by the goal line and the aforementioned one at the end of the first half. But he held up well in taking some major shots throughout the day. Tough kid.
– 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.
– Here’s what makes the Saints offense so good: you simply can’t pick your poison. They have so many weapons that you have to stay fairly honest on defense. Blitz too much, you can get picked apart, if you don’t then they have time to sit back and wait for things to develop.
– The Rams mostly opted for the latter and had trouble all day getting pressure on Drew Brees. He was rarely touched and had plenty of time to make throws and deliver the ball to his many receiving weapons.
– Saints WR Marques Colston is a heck of a receiver. Big time catches for both his touchdowns.
– New Orleans is a tough place to play, no doubt. One of the loudest venues in the league. Don’t envy anyone that might have to come through the Superdome in January.
– Tip of the hat to Craig Dahl for staying with it and coming up with his second interception in as many weeks. He said he hoped they would come in bunches and they do.
– Bradley Fletcher made his fourth interception, the most by a Ram since Fakhir Brown had five in 2007.
– Much like against Atlanta, the Rams just couldn’t come up with the plays to get the job done. Against good teams like the Saints, you have to come up with turnovers but can’t afford to give it back on the other side. That happened just too often today for the Rams to come away with a win.
– Now, for the big picture bright side of all of this. The Rams lost this game but not much else. Seattle was drubbed by San Francisco, keeping the Seahakws and Rams in a tie for first place in the NFC West Division.
– And the Rams completed a three-game road swing and now get to head home for the holidays with a chance to turn up the heat in the division.
– Back tomorrow to wrap this one up.
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