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Rams vs. Saints Notebook: Run Game Solid, But LA's Offense Can't Keep Pace After Stafford Injury

The Los Angeles Rams faltered in the second half against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
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Even without star receiver Cooper Kupp, the Los Angeles Rams started off on the right foot in Sunday's matchup against the New Orleans Saints at Caesars Superdome.

But after Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford exited after being evaluated for a concussion in the third quarter, the Saints started to get hot and left the LA offense in a tough spot with third-string quarterback Bryce Perkins, as the Rams fell further into postseason hopelessness after a 27-20 loss to the Saints.

Let's look at three takeaways from the loss.

Receivers solid without Kupp, but falter late after Stafford exits

With Stafford back in the lineup after missing Week 10 due to a concussion, the Rams' offense got off to a solid start without Kupp in the fold. LA receiver Tutu Atwell had a 62-yard touchdown on a deep ball in the first quarter, giving the Rams offense the big play they'd been searching for.

Allen Robinson II finished off the first half with a six-yard touchdown, as Stafford had gone 8 of 9 passing to cap off the final drive of the half to give LA a 14-10 lead heading into the locker room.

But Stafford exited in the third quarter to be evaluated for a concussion and never returned. The offense struggled mightily because of this.

Perkins provided some solid offense with his legs but completed just three passes to receivers.

The Rams desperately needed Stafford in order to keep up with a Saints offense that got hot in the second half. Instead, Perkins was forced into the action and played from behind.

Aside from Atwell's 62-yard reception, Robinson II led the team with four catches for 47 yards. Tight end Tyler Higbee posted four grabs for 45 yards while Van Jefferson had three catches for 41 yards.

The entire passing game was headed toward a productive second half with the Rams playing from behind, but Stafford's injury silenced everything, as LA coach Sean McVay stayed conservative with Perkins.

Andy Dalton gashes LA's secondary

There was uncertainty surrounding which quarterback would get the start for the Saints on Sunday.

But after the way, New Orleans quarterback Andy Dalton played, maybe LA would've preferred to face a turnover-happy quarterback in Jamies Winston instead.

Dalton played soundly and efficiently, going 21 of 25 passing for 260 yards and three touchdowns. New Orleans wasn't able to get running back Alvin Kamara going on the ground, forcing Dalton to get into a rhythm in the third quarter. He picked up multiple chunk gains through the air, including on three straight scoring drives to begin the second half.

This was highlighted by a 53-yard touchdown in stride to rookie receiver Chris Olave -- who burned Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey -- which put the Saints up 24-14 in the third quarter while simultaneously deflating the LA defense.

Aside from taking a few sacks and missing Kamara on a potential wide-open touchdown, Dalton couldn't have played much better.

LA running game posts best game of season

The Los Angeles Rams have continued to have one of the worst rushing attacks in the league this season.

But despite Sunday's loss, LA put together its best performance on the ground this season, as the Rams rushed for a season-high 148 rushing yards. An aspect of the offense that has been brutally poor this season how has some optimism moving forward in a running back room that will likely remain in a committee.

Rams running back Cam Akers led all players with 14 carries for 61 yards and looked solid, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. LA rookie Kyren Williams showed some nice flashes as well, posting seven carries for 36 yards.

The insertion of Perkins in the second half helped provide a new element to the running game, as he tied LA's longest run of the season with a 23-yard gain late in the third quarter. He finished with five carries for 39 yards.

Akers looks the leader of the backfield with Darrell Henderson Jr. receiving just two carries for nine yards. But the offense will need Stafford back in order to provide some balance for the running game. Having Perkins at the helm potentially for another week will make things predictable.

You can follow Zach Dimmitt on Twitter at @ZachDimmitt7

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