Going into this week’s game against the Saints, the conventional wisdom had the Saints beating the Rams handily after the Saints put up 62 points on the Colts last week. However, the Rams team that played the previous 6 weeks was not the same Rams team that showed up on Sunday. The Rams came out in their pre-2000 throwbacks and celebrated the St. Louis baseball Cardinals World Series team on the sideline before the game. Pitcher Chris Carpenter was in a Steven Jackson jersey and manager Tony La Russa was in a Sam Bradford jersey. Whatever inspired the Rams worked perfectly and they came out flying.
The Rams defense set the tone, holding the high powered Saints offense to zero points in the first quarter. The Rams defensive ends through Robert Quinn and Chris Long dominated their opposition on the Saints offensive line and allowed the rest of the Rams defense to play coverage. Al Harris and Josh Gordy were the starting corners with freshly off the PUP Marquis Johnson filling in during nickle situations. The Rams pass rush was able to get Drew Brees off his spot in the pocket and the coverage was good enough to make Drew Brees press.
In the 2nd quarter, the Rams were able to get on the board first for just the 2nd time this year and their first lead since the first play from scrimmage of the season against Philadelphia. Then after a great stop by the Rams defense, the Rams offense ran an offensive play with the lead for the first time in 2011. Inspired by the Rams defense, a defensive player in Robert Quinn made one of the plays of the game with a blocked punt. The ball rolled out of bounds at the Saints 14 yard line. From there to the end of the first half, the Rams had the momentum and took advantage. The offense took over the game with a high-risk, high-reward gameplan where they emptied out the playbook with reverses, end arounds, fake end arounds and deep passes. Steven Jackson took advantage of the field position with a short touchdown for Steven Jackson. From there, the Rams forced an interception and then scored another TD before halftime with a inch perfect pass to Brandon Lloyd.
The Rams scored another Steven Jackson TD after halftime, but after that touchdown is where the Rams mettle was tested. QB AJ Feeley fumbled the football at the Rams 2 and the Saints recovered for a touchdown and momentum began to turn towards the favored Saints. The Saints then took their next drive for a touchdown and the Rams were up 24-14 with 10 minutes left in the game and the momentum was clearly to the Saints. This is where the Rams fans were thinking “Here we go again…” and the Rams began to sag on the sideline. But, during another 3 and out, Steven Jackson took over the Rams team. He yelled at the Rams offensive line after a false start, then rallied the huddle around him before the series was over. He then brought the entire offensive team around him on the sideline and rallied them for a good few minutes with fire. This was a very important moment in the game because this game could have fallen very quickly into the category of late come from ahead losses for the Rams. But, Steven Jackson rallying and putting the team on his back kept the ball in the Rams hands. Additionally, Brandon Lloyd made his best catch of the day on a 3rd down to keep the clock running for the Rams.
With 3 minutes left in the game, the Rams defense put the cherry on top of the sundae that was the Rams victory as safety Darian Stewart jumped a Drew Brees pass to Jimmy Graham and took the interception back for a touchdown to ice the game for the Rams.
The Rams played to win this game against the Saints instead of playing carefully to not lose by too much. The defense that looked so porous against Dallas played their best game of the year against the high-flying Saints. They stayed with the formula that works best for the defense that was built in St. Louis. Great pass rush from their front four, coverage from the linebackers when they don’t blitz and physical bump and run coverage from the corners. There is not much else to say about this Rams victory. They came out inspired, played to their scheme on defense and got turnovers to put the offense in a good position to score points. AJ Feeley did enough to win the game as Steven Jackson and Brandon Lloyd lead the offense.
Every win in the NFL is a good win and every win ending a 6 game losing streak is a great win, but this was a fantastic win for the Rams and their beleaguered fans.