Skip to main content

Week 11 Showdown: Saints Offense vs. Rams Defense

A New Orleans offense that's been lifeless the last two weeks will have to have a revival without three linemen against a rugged Rams defense in week 11.
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

It's a showdown between two former NFC West rivals when the 3-7 New Orleans Saints host the 3-6 Los Angeles Rams Sunday afternoon. This is the 78th meeting between the Saints and Rams, who competed together in the NFC West from 1970 to 2002.

New Orleans trails the all-time series to the L.A./St. Louis/L.A. franchise 34-43. Since the Rams returned to Los Angeles in 2016, the Saints are 2-3 against them, including a 2-1 record (with an asterisk) in New Orleans.

Both teams have played below expectations in 2022. The Saints come into the game ranked 10th in total offense. However, injuries, self-inflicted mistakes, and questionable play-calling have derailed the unit in key situations. 

Los Angeles coupled a rugged defense with an efficient passing attack on their way to a Super Bowl championship last season. This year, that offense has crumbled a bit, but the Rams rank 6th in total defense. 

New Orleans comes into the week with an offensive line decimated by injuries to take on the best defensive lineman in the NFL. 

Let's take a closer look at how the two units match up. 

Saints Offensive Statistics 

-22.2 points per game (17th)

-358.4 total yards (10th)

-19 turnovers (31st)

-237.7 passing yards (9th)

-16 touchdown passes (9th)

-12 interceptions (32nd)

-21 sacks 

-120.7 rushing yards (15th)

-9 rushing touchdowns (18th)

-4.8 per rush (12th)

-40.6% 3rd Down Percentage (17th)

Jan 20, 2019; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) runs after a reception against the Los Angeles Rams. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 20, 2019; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) runs after a reception against the Los Angeles Rams. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans has had their lowest total yardage output against Baltimore (243) and Pittsburgh (186) in the last two weeks. Offensive line injuries continue to haunt the team. The Saints will be without C Erik McCoy (IR - ankle) and LT James Hurst (concussion) this week, with LG Andrus Peat unlikely to play because of a triceps injury. 

The decimated line has been unable to open holes for the running game, which has totaled a paltry 77 yards in the last two weeks. Josh Andrews, Landon Young, and Calvin Throckmorton are expected to join the much-improved Cesar Ruiz and Pro Bowler Ryan Ramczyk up front. 

The Saints offense still revolves around the versatile talents of RB Alvin Kamara, who leads the team with 469 rushing yards. Kamara is also their second leading receiver, pulling in 39 passes for 338 yards. However, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael must find a way to get the dynamic Kamara more involved this week. He has only 23 combined touches in the last two games. 

With veteran Mark Ingram out with a knee injury, the versatile Taysom Hill provides a solid 1-2 rushing punch to Kamara. Hill is second on the team with 344 rushing yards and leads the squad with six touchdowns. He's a power runner with excellent burst in open space. Hill can also keep defenses off balance with his throwing ability when he lines up behind center. 

New Orleans Saints receiver Chris Olave (12) makes a catch against Raiders cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (26). Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints receiver Chris Olave (12) makes a catch against Raiders cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (26). Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie first-round pick WR Chris Olave is the Saints top receiving threat. Olave has pulled in 46 of his 77 targets for 658 yards and is among the favorites for Offensive Rookie of the Year. He has nice deep speed, but has proven to be a precise route runner with excellent hands and understanding of opposing coverages.

Nine-year veteran WR Jarvis Landry finally returned last week after a five-game injury absence. Landry, who has for 205 yards, has done little since opening the year with a 100-yard outing against Atlanta. He still brings valuable experience to the offense and could deflect some coverage away from Olave. 

It's telling that Landry is still fourth on the team in receptions despite missing nearly six games. Tre'Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, and Kevin White continue to be failures in getting consistent separation and have mostly been non-factors.

The three have combined for just 34 receptions and 490 yards. Undrafted rookie WR Rashid Shaheed presents an intriguing big-play option and could see more reps down the stretch. 

Third-year TE Juwan Johnson has emerged as the team’s most consistent pass catching option aside from Kamara and Olave. Johnson has 28 receptions for 302 yards this season, already a career-high.

A converted wideout, Johnson has the athleticism to be a mismatch against most linebackers and the size to be effective in high-traffic areas. Starting TE Adam Trautman is mostly a blocker, but can be used on short passes or as a check-down option.

Head coach Dennis Allen ended any potential quarterback controversy early this week when he announced that Andy Dalton would continue to be the starter.

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Andy Dalton (14) looks over the Seattle Seahawks defense. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Andy Dalton (14) looks over the Seattle Seahawks defense. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Dalton has averaged nearly 223 yards with 11 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in his seven starts. However, six of those interceptions have come in the last four games and he's averaged just 192 yards passing in the last two weeks. 

Dalton is a smart player capable of working a defense from sideline-to-sideline, but his limitations have been exposed in recent weeks.  He'll need some protection from a battered offensive line and some signs of life from receivers other than Kamara, Olave, and Johnson to open up the offense. 

Rams Defensive Statistics 

-22.2 points per game (18th)

Scroll to Continue

Read More

-310.8 total yards (6th)

-8 turnovers (27th)

-214.7 passing yards (17th)

-67.8% completion percentage 

-11 passing touchdowns (12th)

-5 interceptions (25th)

-18 sacks/37 QB hits 

-96.1 rushing yards (4th)

-3.9 per rush (4th)

-40.8% 3rd Down Percentage (17th)

Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) slips past Arizona Cardinals guard Lecitus Smith (54) to get to quarterback Colt McCoy (not pictured). Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) slips past Arizona Cardinals guard Lecitus Smith (54) to get to quarterback Colt McCoy (not pictured). Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

You can't start a conversation about the Rams defense without talking about DT Aaron Donald. The 31-year-old Donald is arguably the league's most dominant defender and still single-handedly wrecks opposing offenses. Donald leads his team with 5 sacks, 12 pressures, and 8 tackles for loss despite double and triple team blocking on every down. 

Veteran Leonard Floyd has been a terrific edge complement to Donald's inside dominance. Floyd has 3 sacks, 9 pressures, and 4 tackles for loss. Seventh-year DT A'Shawn Robinson gives the Rams another powerful presence up front. Robinson isn't a great pass rusher, but he's an excellent run defender who ties up blockers and pushes linemen into the backfield. 

The Rams typically employ a 3-4 front with Greg Gaines at the nose joining Donald and Robinson up front, with Lloyd dropping down from his OLB spot. It's been extremely effective against the run. Los Angeles has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher and only four players have even rushed for 70 yards or more against them. 

The Rams also have two tremendous inside linebackers to deter opponents from running the football. They are among the least run-on defenses in the NFL. 

Offseason pickup Bobby Wagner, an 11-year veteran released by Seattle, has shown he has plenty of quality ball left. Wagner leads Los Angeles with 73 tackles, which includes four for loss and three sacks. Third-year LB Terrell Lewis has been a terrific complement to Wagner. Lewis has 67 tackles, second on the team, along with an interception. The athletic Lewis is most effective in open space and is the Rams best cover linebacker. 

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey (5) breaks up a pass intended for Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans (13). Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey (5) breaks up a pass intended for Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans (13). Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the presence of Donald and Lloyd, opponents have had more success through the air against L.A. They've given up one 300-yard passer this season, but three other quarterbacks have thrown for over 270 yards against them. Rams coverage has surrendered three 100-yard outings to receivers, with eight other players surpassing 70 yards receiving. 

Eight-year veteran Jalen Ramsey is considered one of the top corners in the NFL. Ramsey is a ball hawking gambler who can be beaten with double moves and sharp route fakes. He has an interception and has broken up nine passes this season, but has allowed 66% completion percentage when targeted. 

Most opponents choose to target Troy Hill, David Long, or rookie Derion Kendrick over Ramsey. All three are quality players, but have allowed a combined 67% completion rate. 

Safeties Taylor Rapp and Nick Scott are an underrated pair. Each are physical defenders who are good against the run with excellent range and recognition in coverage. 

What to Expect 

November 26, 2017; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) runs the ball against the Los Angeles Rams. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY

November 26, 2017; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) runs the ball against the Los Angeles Rams. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY

Alvin Kamara has been productive against the Rams. In four career games against Los Angeles, he’s had two games of over 80 yards on the ground. Kamara has been even more effective as a receiver, catching 22 of 27 targets for 246 yards, including two games of over 95 yards through the air. 

It's an absolute must for the Saints to establish balance and be effective with their running game. That will be easier said than done with massive shortages along their offensive line, which also highlights the necessity to not be reliant on the pass.

Expect Kamara to be heavily involved in the game plan, but perhaps more as a receiver than a runner. It would also be wise for Pete Carmichael to give Taysom Hill more than the combined six touches than he's gotten the last two games. 

Saints quarterback Taysom Hill runs the ball against the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. © SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Network

Saints quarterback Taysom Hill runs the ball against the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. © SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Network

When the Saints do pass, it's unrealistic to expect Dalton to attempt many downfield throws because of the issues up front. Expect a quick rhythm passing attack, with Dalton working shorter throws to Olave, Kamara, Johnson, and even Trautman.

An effective running game could open some play-action chances, but any downfield throws will probably be a double-move with a quick look deep and an immediate check-down if it isn't there.

Most importantly, the Saints absolutely have to avoid turnovers and three-and-outs to reduce pressure on their defense. Their once-vaunted defense has struggled as it is, but will be a short-handed unit without ends Cam Jordan, Marcus Davenport, LB Pete Werner, and CB Marshon Lattimore. 

With those defensive shortages, New Orleans will need to contribute something significant offensively, even with their missing pieces up front. Any slim chance to get back in the NFC South race depends on it.

Read More Saints News