The New Orleans Saints notched their 400th regular season win in franchise history with a 27-20 home victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
Both teams came into the contest extremely banged up with injuries, but it was the Saints who overcame their shortcomings to play the more complete game.
New Orleans still couldn't stop the run, even against the NFL's worst rushing team. Los Angeles picked up 148 yards on the ground, their season high by nearly 40 yards. Safety play continued to be abysmal. Tyrann Mathieu was embarrassingly out of position in coverage over the top when CB Chris Harris Jr. was badly beaten on a 62-yard scoring pass to Tutu Atwell.
Andy Dalton was extremely efficient most of the day, completing 21 of 25 passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns. However, Dalton showed extremely poor decision-making on two of the three sacks he endured.
Still, the Saints had their best second half offensive output in six games, were disruptive defensively, and came up with key special teams plays.
Alvin Kamara had a productive day with 87 all-purpose yards. Chris Olave led all receivers with five catches for 102 yards and a key touchdown. Juwan Johnson had another nice day, hauling in three passes for 47 yards and his team-best fifth receiving touchdown.
Here were some of the best performances from a New Orleans team that upped its record to 4-7 with the win.
Hill didn't have a spectacular yardage output. He led New Orleans with 52 rushing yards, added one reception for 8 yards, and was 1 of 3 passing for 14 yards and a sack.
It was the impact of Hill on both the Saints offense and Rams defense that was most telling.
After just six combined touches in the last two games, Hill was in on 14 touches on Sunday. Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael did a nice job using him in a variety of situations. Hill’s mere presence kept the Rams defense off balance. It was one of the biggest keys for a New Orleans offense that was missing three starters on the offensive line.
The Saints had inexplicably abandoned the run in each of their last two contests. Hill and Kamara’s workmanlike 94 rushing yards on 21 carries weren't pretty, but definitely effective enough to set up a quick rhythm passing attack from Dalton that was fueled by Hill’s versatility.
Kaden Elliss/Demario Davis
Davis had a stat line that would have been spectacular for most players, but is an almost routine output for him. He had 8 tackles, a half sack, several pressures or key run stops, and forced a handful of incompletions in coverage.
Davis, along with Tanoh Kpassagnon, had the Saints first sack of the game to end the first Los Angeles drive of the second half. It not only set up New Orleans in solid field position for a second straight touchdown drive, but also knocked Rams QB Matthew Stafford out for the game.
Saints LB Kaden Elliss had his second straight terrific outing in place of an injured Pete Werner. He led New Orleans with 10 tackles, including a game-high five solo stops. Several of those tackles were thunderous hits along the line of scrimmage.
Elliss had 1.5 of his team's four sacks on Stafford and Bryce Perkins. One ended a fourth quarter drive that all but sealed the New Orleans win. He also had a key pass breakup to put the Rams in a second-and-long on an earlier fourth quarter drive.
The most consistent area of the Saints defense this season has been their linebackers. Elliss had been a solid complement to the outstanding play of Davis and Werner, but has stepped up to play his own standout football in Werner's absence. He wasn't the only reserve to play a big part in this win.
The Next Men Up
- Kaden Elliss, DE
- Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE
- Carl Granderson, DE
- Payton Turner, DE
- Josh Andrews, C
- Calvin Throckmorton, LG
- Landon Young, LT
Those were the backups that started because of injury to Werner, Cam Jordan, Marcus Davenport, Erik McCoy, Andrus Peat, and James Hurst. Add in the fact that Alontae Taylor and Paulson Adebo held down a thin cornerback spot because of injuries to Marshon Lattimore and Bradley Roby.
Granderson had 1.5 sacks, while Kpassagnon had a half sack and forced two others. Turner had a huge stop on a third-and-short that ended an L.A. drive before leaving with an ankle injury. All three players got good penetration into the Rams backfield all afternoon to disrupt Stafford and Perkins.
The Saints have a deep defensive rotation and all these players see action weekly. However, their big contributions with increased snaps were a key to the win.
Andrews, Throckmorton, and Young were just as critical to the Saints victory. Yes, they had problems with Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd, and Greg Gaines during the game. They also joined RG Cesar Ruiz and RT Ryan Ramczyk to open up holes for their running game and provided just enough pass protection for Dalton to hit some key throws.
This victory by no means saved the Saints season, but it did keep them within striking distance in the NFC South.
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