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How the Saints lost to the Rams: And why it won’t happen against the Panthers

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New Orleans found themselves in unfamiliar territory on Sunday. No need to fear. They’ll be able to correct that against a very familiar foe in Week 13.

Good things must always come to an end. Unfortunately for Saints fans, the team’s magical 8-game win streak was snapped in Week 12 after a 26-20 loss in Los Angeles against the Rams.

It was ugly, and not as close as the final score indicates. But, overall, the loss was unexpected. Not because Los Angeles is a bad team at all. Quite the opposite. And many were worried about this rising team beating the Saints. The shocking part about the loss was the way it happened

How the Rams pulled it off

Coming into the game, many expected 2 things to happen. The first involved the Saints continuing their dominating ground attack against LA’s weak rushing defense. The combination of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara would give the Saints a time of possession advantage over the Rams.

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Add in Drew Brees’ talent in the passing game, and New Orleans was expected to have a high powered offense. Before the game, the Saints were fourth in the NFL in average time of possession at 32:14.

The second expected occurrence was Los Angeles struggling to keep the Saints offense off the field. The Rams came into Sunday top-5 in the league in terms of yards per play (7.1), and have quick possessions. Whether or not those possessions lead to points is a different story.  But the last few weeks have shown us that they do. Before the game, the Rams were 17th in the NFL in average time of possession at 29:52.

Script flipped

However, since this is the NFL, the opposite happened. 21 more plays were run by the Rams. This led to a 415-346 yard production advantage over New Orleans (another category that favored the Saints coming into the game). Despite having one more yard per play than the Rams, the Saints moved the chains ten less times.

The most glaring stat was time of possession, though. The Rams had the ball for over 35 minutes of the game, compared to just over 24:30 for New Orleans. Massive deficits in plays run and time of possession doomed the Saints from the start.

Too much time for Goff

Despite being sacked 4 times, most of the time QB Jared Goff dropped back, he had loads of time to throw the ball. He was hit only one more time besides those sacks, and looked comfortable. With starting cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley both out, more zone coverages were run, giving Goff wide open windows to hit receivers for healthy gains all game.

On the other side, Ingram was nowhere to be found and Kamara had to account for a majority of the Saints’ offensive output. Kamara scored all of the team’s touchdowns and lead the team in receiving and rushing yards. Ingram finished with just 31 yards on 11 carries. It didn’t help that Brees was under duress for a lot of the game and only accumulated 246 passing yards on 22 completions.

The Rams beat the Saints at their own game. They controlled the ball, clock, and tempo on both sides of the ball. Sean McVay, the rookie head coach for Los Angeles, prepared phenomenally for Sunday’s game. Luckily for the Saints, redemption is right around the corner

Why Week 13 will be different

The streak that ended yesterday began against the same team up next on the Saints’ schedule. This time, for the team’s second and final meeting of the season, Carolina will travel to New Orleans for the divisional matchup.

The first game, in Week 3, ended with a 21-point victory for New Orleans and was win 1 of what ended up becoming 8 in a row. In the win, New Orleans had a 31:09-28:51 advantage in time of possession in that one. That’s significant because the Panthers actually lead the NFL in time of possession for 2017.

Next: Streak ends for Saints in 26-20 reality check in LA

Now, Carolina ran a total of two more plays than New Orleans somehow. But the total yardage difference was so significant that the Saints averaged 1.5 yards more per play than the Panthers. The score was the ultimate difference, showing New Orleans’ ability to get points on the board.

Carolina’s defense never seems to have an answer for this Sean Payton-ran offense, and I believe the Saints will get back on track on both offense and defense in Week 13. Players will heal up, and a lesser defensive front will help New Orleans move the ball and keep the clock running.

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