It started out as a pas de deux, but ended up as a solo performance. The New Orleans Saints danced with the Los Angeles Rams in the first half, allowing them to best their normal points per game total.
After that, the Who Dats decided they’d had enough partner dancing and went solo, completely dominating the second half en route to a 49-21 Saints victory. 49 is the most offensive points scored by any NFL team this season.
Life against the Rams hasn’t been good for the Black and Gold. In the Sean Payton era, the Saints were 2-3 against the Rams, who’d always featured a tenacious front 7 on defense. Additionally, Payton hadn’t beaten Jeff Fisher in his career. Payton lost to Fisher once when he coached the Tennessee Titans in 2007, and again as he coached the St. Louis Rams in 2013. Sunday was to be different, though. The Rams current defensive coordinator is Gregg Williams – yes, THAT Gregg Williams.
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In case you slept through 2012, a refresher – Gregg Williams had been the architect of our Super Bowl winning defense in 2009. Williams, a loquacious and braggadocious coach, was also the architect of the bounty program at the center of “Bountygate”, the pay for hits program that cost Payton a year of his career, as well as sanctions falling on the team and several players. The scoop seems to be that Williams didn’t stick to the script when the NFL came calling to inquire about the program and Williams’ loose lips sunk the Saints. It seems that Sean Payton held a special dislike for Williams. That may have influenced Sunday’s game.
The game was back and forth early. The Rams offensive line looked even better than advertised and the defensive line, particularly Aaron Donald, blew up plays. Early on, it looked very much like the matchups the Saints continually seem to have with the Rams. Only difference being we got up to 28 points by the half, which is more than we normally score against them. The second half was all Saints. Offensively they opened the playbook and found plays that hadn’t seen the light of day in some time. Defensively not only did they get to Jared Goff, but they only allowed 60 yards of offense to the Rams in the second half. It was nice to see the Saints on the positive side of a tail whipping for once.
Observations from the Cheap Seats:
- The biggest observation was one the cameras quit showing and the TV guys failed to really capitalize on for a better story line. Once the Saints took the lead, on every TD they made, Sean Payton deliberately and intently glared across the field at Gregg Williams and punched his fist or made some motion towards him, punctuating it with a “BOOM!” It was probably the highlight of the day for those who caught it! So purposeful and full of intent. From what was spoken, the goal was to score 50 on Williams’ defense. They sure got close, and they kept trying. This was a highly personal game for Payton. At the end of the game, Payton shook hands with Fisher but Williams was nowhere to be found – he was headed to the locker room without speaking to a soul on the Saints side… Probably best.
- Also noted, at least for this particular game, was that Sean Payton called the plays. In every other game I’ve watched in person, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael has called the plays. It’s resulted in a more balanced attack and a more open playbook. But it seems due to the very personal nature of this game, Payton wanted to call the plays himself.
- Terron Armstead was the only Saint to come out with an injury this week. It wasn’t the knee that’s plagued him all season, but what looked to be a hip injury. He took a pill on the sideline as trainer Scottie Patton iced his hip. He didn’t return. Andrus Peat slid over from guard to tackle and Senio Kelemete moved in at guard. Peat had some issues withe Aaron Donald Sunday – Donald was just really fast and Peat was slow in getting positioned. Brees was hurried, hit and sacked more than he should have been – but this was a Gregg Williams defense. The Saints were smart though and used that speed against them, running plays to the outside and a couple of screens that the defenders simply ran themselves out of position on.
- Special teams are still a disaster. We gave up big return yards, muffed a punt, and almost did another. The addition of a new coach didn’t do much in week one. We are WOEFULLY behind the league in special teams play.
- Willie Snead’s TD pass was the first time anyone besides a QB has thrown for a completion in the Sean Payton era. The last Saints player to throw a TD pass was current WWL Radio Saints color analyst Deuce McAllister.
- A little aside – note to the little jazz band that goes around playing “When The Saints Go Marching In” in the Dome during the game… We all love that flavor and it’s such a cool thing. But please – not when the Saints are on offense. The Dome is so nice and quiet when the offense is at work, but today at least once it was noticed that the band was playing while the Saints were running their offense. I know it’s not much sound, and it’s far away. But every little bit helps… Be part of the solution, not part of the issue.
Overall a solid win and a confidence booster.
Saints are now 5-6 with a date with Detroit this coming Sunday. Detroit has ascended to the lead in the NFC North, which has taken several steps back with Minnesota flailing and Green Bay playing no defense this season. In all reality, the Saints would need to win out and get help to have any playoff shot. That’s the bad news.
The good news is looking at the rest of the season, it’s possible. No one is overwhelmingly better than the Black and Gold. But it will be difficult to beat Tampa twice, and Atlanta is still one of the better NFC teams. Atlanta is the only team that we’ve lost to that truly beat us up. The other good news is so many of the teams that are in front of the Saints have to play division foes also and could end up beating each other up. It’s all still a long shot, but it’s good for the NFL that with 5 weeks left in the regular season, there’s only one team completely eliminated from the playoff picture and another 2-3 that are likely out. Everyone else is at least in the picture, and that’s the parity the NFL loves.