Josh Hill was hurt in the first half and went to the tent. He wasn’t in there for a full play and they took him to the locker room for the concussion protocol. He didn’t return. Since Ben Watson was already out with appendicitis, we were down to two tight ends, plus Garrett Griffin, who was recently activated off the practice squad. This left us woefully short up front for blocking assignments. On a positive note, Griffin caught the first Saints TD pass. It was his first TD of his career, and only the second catch of his career. Good timing for that.
Eli Apple was playing the role of Marcus Peters this week. On at least one occasion, he was seen on the field trading verbal jabs with Rams coach Sean McVay. On the second to last play just before the game winning field goal, he came up limping. Fortunately for him, there was no play his way.
The Saints were leading the league in fewest defensive penalties coming into todays game. What a huge change from what seems like a few short seasons ago when we could count on defensive back Brandon Browner (currently inmate #such and such in prison, we should have charged him with theft for the money he stole from this franchise masquerading as a good football player) to make sure we were consistently penalized.
You can only play through so many injuries for so long and this seemed to be the offensive line’s breaking point. Don’t get me wrong, Ndamukong Suh, Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers are as good as they come up front. The best offensive line would have issues blocking them. And they are so versatile, you don’t always know where they are coming from. But the combination of Peat’s broken hand, Armstead’s still not completely healed pectoral tear, and Ryan Ramczyk’s shoulder, it seemed the line was gassed.
Add to that the absence of Benjamin Watson and the line was just not where it needed to be this week. Bad time to have a bad game. And as the line goes, so goes our offense. The line’s injuries, particularly Armstead over the last two months and now Peat, have led this to be a different team. A once potent offense has been relatively stagnant since the Dallas loss. The Saints gained only 290 yards of offense against the Rams Sunday.
Flip side, Demario Davis and Alvin Kamara had outstanding days. Kamara showed up strong against a team bent on stopping him and Michael Thomas. Thomas was quiet, but Kamara was solid with 230 all purpose yards. Davis had 14 tackles, an interception and a pass defended. Great when your stars show up strong.
No need to do much grasping at straws as to why we lost the game. We may have been in position to win, but we were outplayed. The Rams outgained us by nearly 100 yards and while things weren’t going their way early, they settled down in the second quarter and began playing championship football, particularly on defense.
It’s a wrap
So, the Saints season comes to a gut wrenching end. In the year that seemed to be the one of destiny, the one in which the guardian angel spirit of Tom Benson would lead us to the Super Bowl, the Super Bowl in the hometown of our biggest rivals (and might have been against the team that gave us and them 28-3 forever), we find ourselves grasping at what could have been. This was a special Saints team, one for the ages. This team will be spoken of in reverent tones.
While they didn’t make it to the final game of the season, there’s plenty to feel good about for the season, plenty to be proud of. And a lot to build on for next season. There are many more who dat days to come!