The Rams showed a complete team effort supported by an elite kicker, a consistent pass rush and a developing quarterback to pull off a 26-20 victory against the Saints at the Coliseum on Sunday, Nov. 26. After suffering a loss in Minneapolis last week, the Rams came away with their best win of the season, snapping the Saints eight-game winning streak.
“I think ultimately what we have now is a lot of confidence,” said Rams quarterback Jared Goff. “We don’t care who lines up against us, we’re going to go out and play our game and execute to the best of our ability.”
The 23-year-old quarterback threw for 354 yards and two touchdowns. He threw his first interception since week seven against Arizona due to a tipped ball off the fingertips of Watkins. Goff feasted on not having to face two of the Saints top defensive backs in Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley.
The Rams were also without one of their marquee players, wide receiver Robert Woods, who suffered a shoulder injury in last week’s Vikings loss. Devoid of Goff’s favorite passing target, Rams’ receivers were forced to step up.
“We don’t rely on one person to make plays for us,” said rookie wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
It was expected for every player to get more involved with Woods’ absence, especially Sammy Watkins. He did just that; the first drive of the game, Watkins came down with the Rams first touchdown to get the team’s offense rolling early.
“It was definitely a different intensity with Rob[ert Woods] being out,” remarked Watkins, who totaled four catches for 82 yards on the day. Kupp added eight catches for 116 yards, after struggling against the Vikings with a fumble and a key drop. Late in the game against the Saints, Kupp had some key third down conversions that held the Saints off.
“He’s a pretty sharp impressive guy, he continues to get better and better,” said Sean McVay, Rams head coach. “You talk about having an understanding above the neck like a quarterback playing receiver.”
McVay said it was expected to see a turnaround in Kupp. One of the more pleasant surprises for the team was from rookie Josh Reynolds, who added his first career touchdown in the second quarter. Goff guided Reynolds to a spot in the back of the end zone and connected.
“I think you can see the length, the athleticism and great ball skills,” McVay said of Reynolds. “We always look forward to seeing some of these younger player step up in the absence of someone like Robert Woods and I thought that’s exactly what Josh did.”
On the other side of the ball, the Rams defense caused unrest for the Saints quarterback Drew Brees. The future Hall of Famer, who has benefited immensely from the protection of his offensive line all season, was sacked twice during the opening drive. It set the tone for the game. Brees ended up with a season-high three sacks.
“You know the type of chaos he can cause for a defense,” said Rams outside linebacker Robert Quinn, who was responsible for one of the sacks in the Saints first drive. “It was just a big challenge for our team, to show that we are something to be reckoned with.”
The Rams defense did continue to struggle against the run. Saints running back Alvin Kamara gave the Rams defense fits all game including a 74-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
“He was everything that we saw on film and a little bit more,” Rams inside linebacker Alec Ogletree said.
The Rams defense only gave up 272 yards and 3.1 yards per carry against an offense that came in averaging more than 30 points per game. Credit can also be attributed to Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein, who leads the NFL in scoring. Zuerlein had field goals of 50, 49, 46 and 26 yards, though he missed the 63-yarder at the end of the first half that would have been a career-long. With this win, the Rams have notched their first winning season since 2006.
“It’s part of the process; it’s a step in the right direction,” said McVay modestly. “Certainly there’s a lot of football to be played.”
The Rams will travel to Arizona to face another division opponent in the Arizona Cardinals next week. Meanwhile, the Saints have a critical division matchup against the 8-3 Carolina Panthers.