Week 15 is the almost-end of the season, when teams are clawing for playoff positions. The New Orleans Saints are on the road to face the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. The Rams are out of the playoff picture, so they are playing for the competitive pleasure of creating bumps in the road for a playoff berth seeking team, namely the Saints. The Rams, however, came into this game and decided to play like a team with everything on the line.
The Rams won the toss and chose to receive. They ended their first possession with a punt. In the Saints first possession, Drew Brees did something he has only done 8 other times all season. He threw an interception. From the 32 yard line, Clemons threw a pass to tight end Cory Harkey that he powered into the end zone to get the first score of the game.
After the punt, the Saints again took the field. Brees utilized Sproles and Ingram to move the ball down to the red zone. After 156 trips inside the 20 yard line without an interception, Brees was picked off at the goal line by Tremain Johnson.
Two flags on the Saints helped the Rams get down inside the 15 yard line, while Zac Stacey displayed his running and leaping ability to the fans’ delight. The Saints defense forced the Rams to 3rd and 9 at the 14. Clemons pass was high but Austin Pettis went up for it to bring up 1st and goal at the 9-yard line.
After a Rams timeout, Clemons put one up to Lance Kendricks for another touchdown, to stretch their lead to 14-0 to cap off a 93 yard drive. The Rams surprised the Saints with an onside kick which they recovered at the Saints’ 47 yard line.
Clemons drove down the field but the Saints defense held strong. At the start of the 2nd quarter, the Rams kicked a 31 yard field goal to add to their score 17-0. The Saints managed to get back down the field but the rams D-line returned the favor and held them to a 45 yard field goal, bringing the score to 17-3.
After another Saints punt, the Rams easily pushed their way down the field with the running game and on the spot passes. Finally, Chris Gibbons got into the end zone again, bring the score to 24-3.
Brees is the best quarterback in the league when it comes to the 2-minute drill, but today the Rams were better. A touchdown pass to Lance Moore was wiped out by a flag on defensive player Chris Brown. The penalty pushed the Saints back from a 3rd and 2 to a 3rd and 12 at the 18 yard line. Hartley came in for a 36 yard field goal try that missed. The ball was tipped on the way up and fell short of the goal posts. The score at halftime was 24-3, Rams.
The Saints got the ball first in the 3rd quarter. Once again, they got the ball moving well. The Rams D-line once again stepped up however, forcing another fumble on Brees. Robert Quinn, with assistance from Chris Long, stripped Brees as he was stepping into the pocket and the Rams took the ball. After a long drive, Stacy was stuffed on 3rd and 1 in the red zone. The Rams settled for another field goal from 35 yards out and pushed their lead to 27-3.
When the Saints came up short of 3rd down, they went for it on 4th and 1 and converted on a Thomas run. The pass to Colston was caught, but he was ruled out of bounds, bringing up 2nd and 10. Coach Sean Payton challenged the call, and on replay, it seemed Colston had control of the ball as he dragged one foot. The officials agreed with him on review and the Saints had the 1st down at the 43 yard line.
Ingram ended the quarter by ducking his way down to the 35 yard line for another first down. After Sproles was stuffed, Brees found Colston for a first down at the 12 yard line. Thomas fought his way down to the 5, for 2nd and 2. Ogletree almost nabbed another interception on Brees’ pass to Collins near the goal line.
On 3rd and 2, Brees handed it off to Thomas, who pushed the pile and got the 1st down at the 1. Brees’ pass was incomplete to the back corner of the end zone. On 3rd down, Brees leaped over the tangle and held the ball out for a touchdown. The Rams blocked a 2-point attempt but the Saints appeared energized with the score of 27-9.
That energy carried the Saints to another touchdown to Colston, bringing the score to 27-16. After the 2-minute warning, Hartley attempted another field goal from 26 yards out, missing wide left. That was all they had left, apparently, as the Rams held strong for the rest of the game, maintaining the score through the last 1:51 of the game.
This loss drops the Saints to 10-4, but does not drop them from the playoff picture. They are 4-0 in the division, and will go up against the Panthers in Charlotte before finishing up the season at home with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Rams host the Bucs next week and finish their season in Seattle against the Seahawks. Despite playing for pride, the Rams put a hurting on the Saints and pulled off an upset. The Saints now get to go home and try to figure out what went wrong. They have a week to correct it, and get back to work on their playoff position.
By Brandi Tasby