After watching this game there is absolutely no mistake in saying that Sean Payton had this game circled on his calendar from the moment the schedule was released. This was Payton’s first chance to Greg Williams, the DC who cost him a year of his career and almost definitely a second super bowl at home. This was Sean’s opportunity to embarrass Greg publicly, and maybe gain at least a small amount of closure. The Saints capitalized on that opportunity scoring 49 points, racking up over 550 yards of offense, and rushing for over 200 yards on a Rams defense that is supposed to be elite.
As great as the ending of the game was, the Saints got off to one of the worst starts they could have. The Rams marched right down the field and scored on a busted coverage, and scored another touchdown shortly thereafter when Drew Brees was sacked and fumbled giving the Rams possession of the ball deep in Saints territory. They also gave up a long touchdown drive to end the half that involved a number of broken coverages, however the second half was a totally different story.
The Saints allowed 21 points in the first half (7 of which were basically created by the turnover so can’t really be put on the defense), they scored 28, but the game still felt like it could turn into another one of the heart breakers we’ve become so accustomed to this year. Fortunately for the Black and Gold that was not in the stars. The Saints absolutely dominate the second half adding another 21 points, holding the Rams scoreless, and Sean Payton took opportunities to embarrass and destroy Williams defense. They opened up the half with a 61 yard run by Ingram who has been fantastic since he was challenged by the coaches with his benching. Ingram would score later on the same drive on a 21 yard screen which as we all know is a staple of Williams defense along with allowing tight ends to remain uncovered at all times (a tradition the rams upheld beautifully). Neither was the moment that made me and I’m sure many fans laugh out loud, that moment was reserved for when Payton decided to call a flea flicker pass by Willie Snead up 21 in the 4th quarter that would go for a 50 yard TD. That play was without a question Sean Payton sending a message to Greg Williams: “it’s personal, I hate you, and I’ll never forgive you for what you cost me….now power point THIS”. (Editors note: Payton’s real thoughts involved many more expletives) The only thing that was missing on the play was Payton doing Williams signature crotch chop, but he was emphatically celebrating every big play the team made.
Don’t let the gaudy numbers fool you, the Rams have had a very good defense this year. However, Sean Payton and Drew Brees were a step ahead of the Rams all day, and stand out rookie Michael Thomas made it very clear that any remaining issues from his disastrous game against Denver are long forgotten. Thomas was basically uncoverable all day long and finished with over 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Thomas remains an extremely physical presence for the Saints on the offensive side of the ball, and his emergence has been a huge part of the offense returning to their record setting form.
The offense weren’t the only ones who had a good day though. The Saints defense allowed a pair of long TD drives to the Rams in the first half, but other than that they did a very good job of making sure that the Rams offense remained mediocre. In particular their ability to make Todd Gurley essentially irrelevant was a major contributor to the win. The Saints did a very good job of not allowing the very talented break to break a big run, and the emergence of the Saints defensive line as a quality unit behind the return of 1st round pick Sheldon Rankins has continued. In fact Rankins was responsible for a strip sack of his own in this game as he continues to be a positive presence for the team.
The road to the playoffs is still a long one, and the Saints don’t have the odds in their favor after choking away very winnable games in the last two weeks. Still, there is no way a 49 point explosion against a good defense won’t be beneficial to a young teams confidence. The Saints will need to win out in order to have a chance at making the post season, and a performance like today’s helps at least give us hope that its a possibility.
- Cam Jordan re-emergence over the last several weeks has been in part because he’s a very good player, and in part due to the Saints improved health. Having actual NFL level players around him has been a huge help.
- Healthy Dannell Ellerbe continues to be a huge difference maker for the Saints defense. His speed, savvy, intensity, and ability to be effective at everything as a linebacker has been huge.
- Michael Thomas, Willie Snead, and Brandin Cooks are a very complimentary receiving unit, and Thomas emerging as the main guy is going to help the others a great deal.
- Sheldon Rankins is as advertised. His strip sack was exactly the kind of penetrating move that got him drafted 12th overall.
- Mark Ingram is such a mercurial player. I know the ‘Angry Ingram’ moniker is mostly tongue in cheek, but since he got benched and Hightower started taking snaps from him Mark has been playing like a man possessed. He’s decisive, and even…explosive? (no really). His emergence as a playmaker for the offense has been a pleasant and very welcome surprise.
- Kenny Vacarro needs to be resigned by the Saints. His interception was a pure case of ‘wanting the ball more’ and he continues to be a play maker and difference maker for the defense.
- Vonn Bell is starting to emerge as a very solid player for the defense as well, Thomas will and should get the hype, but the Saints really seem to have found a pair of gems from Ohio State this year.