It was inevitable that the New Orleans Saints' 8-game winning streak would end at some point, and yesterday at the legendary Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was that day.
The Saints, now (8-3), were simply outplayed in all aspects of the game (offense, defense, special teams), and give credit to both Rams head coach Sean McVay and his defensive coordinator / long-time veteran assistant Wade Phillips for the execution of solid game-plans.
Yes, the Saints were "short-handed" — but so is every other NFL team that has injuries at this time of the year. So Saints fans can spare themselves the embarrassment of using that narrative from here on out.
The bottom line was that New Orleans was outplayed, out-hustled, and out-coached; and in the NFL, more times than not it equates to an "L" in the win-loss column.
That's NOT to say that the (8-3) Rams are a "better" team than the Saints are. If these two teams played 10 times, they'd probably split the games 5 to 5.
But yesterday, it was the Rams who were the better team, period. End of story.
The Saints' next game is at home next Sunday at the Superdome against the (8-3) Carolina Panthers, whom they now find themselves tied with atop the NFC South Division.
It will be the biggest game of the season for the Saints, in a contest that could ultimately determine who will eventually be the champion of the NFC South.
With that in mind, here is the Saints News Network's 5 biggest "winners and losers" for the Saints in yesterday's loss to the L.A. Rams.....
THE BIGGEST WINNERS
5. CRAIG ROBERTSON, LINEBACKER
The savvy 7th year veteran had a solid day, including when he sacked Rams QB Jared Goff in the first quarter, and later in the game made the tackle on an 8-yard loss for Rams WR / RB Tavon Austin.
It should be noted that the Saints used Robertson in a few of their blitz packages, and it seemed to work with some degree of success.
Perhaps that's something that the Saints can utilize once again, with the most difficult part of their schedule upon us.
4. WIL LUTZ, KICKER
Lutz has gone back and forth all year on our "winners and losers" lists, and this week it was his turn to end up back in the "Winners" portion.
Lutz nailed all of his field goal (2 for 2) and extra point attempts, including a 50-yarder early in the 4th quarter that kept the Saints within striking distance of the lead.
He also successfully executed a perfect on-side kick at the end of the game, though the Rams were still able to come away with the football, and the win.
3. THOMAS MORSTEAD, PUNTER
After having a game where he didn't have to punt at all in a win over Buffalo a few weeks ago, Morstead's leg got a work-out early and often in this game.
He punted a total of 7 times in all, which equaled his season high; for a 53-yard gross average, and 44.6-yard net, with two downed inside the Rams’ 20-yard line. He also had a long of 60 yards.
It's a continuation of a fantastic season for Morstead, who could potentially give the Saints their first-ever Pro Bowl player in team history, at that position.
2. CAM JORDAN, DEFENSIVE END
It would be more than fair to say that the Saints defense as a unit struggled at times yesterday, but the one player who stood out head and shoulders above the rest was 7th year defensive end Cam Jordan, who essentially was a "1-man wrecking crew".
Jordan played like a man possessed, and had 4 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 quarterback hurries, 2 tackles for loss and 2 passes defensed / batted down. He also now has 10 sacks on the season.
Jordan has been "snubbed" for selection to the Pro Bowl in recent seasons. but you can bet that they'll be hard-pressed to find a reason to keep him away this year.
1. ALVIN KAMARA, RUNNING BACK
What more can we say about this kid that we haven't said already?
The 3rd-round pick from Tennessee is now EASILY the front-runner for the 2017 NFL Rookie of the Year award, and he potentially would be the Saints’ first Rookie of the Year award winner since Rueben Mayes back in 1986.
Kamara had what probably was the "highlight" play of his entire season, and that's saying a lot considering how many of them that he's had already.
On the very first play of the Saints’ 2nd offensive series, he busted through a hole on the right side of the O-Line and then out-raced the entire Rams secondary for a 74-yard TD run. He also had another "highlight reel" play later in the game when he high-hurdled Rams CB Kayvon Webster in the 4th quarter.
He finished with 188 combines yards from scrimmage (101 receiving, 87 receiving) and 2 TD's, and at times clearly looked like one of the best players on the entire field, which is damn impressive considering the wide variety of talent players whom he was out there with.
He now has scored a touchdown in five straight games, the first rookie in franchise history to do so; and unquestionably now has to be considered THE BIGGEST STEAL of the entire 2017 NFL Draft class.
THE BIGGEST LOSERS
5. THE SAINTS KICKOFF / PUNT RETURN COVERAGE ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Previously retired 69-year old (and new Saints special teams coach) Mike Westhoff will have his work cut out for him in the next few days, as he grapples with another issue he was brought in (and coaxed out of retirement) to correct: the Saints godawful kickoff / punt return coverage team.