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Rams-Saints: What we learned

The SportsXchange

ST. LOUIS -- The New Orleans Saints needed a win Sunday to clinch a playoff spot. The only thing the St. Louis Rams were playing for was pride.

It turned out that was all the Rams needed.

Kellen Clemens passed for two touchdowns, Zac Stacy rushed for 133 yards and a touchdown and the St. Louis defense harassed quarterback Drew Brees all day in building a 27-3 lead en route to a 27-16 upset of the Saints.

"We expect to be underdogs against the Saints," Clemens said. "We understand that. More importantly what this team has shown is such a drive to continue to work. There's a handful of teams right now that aren't going to the playoffs and unfortunately we're one of them. But I guarantee there is no other team in that group that is working as hard or still having as much fun as we're having."

Brees threw two interceptions in the first quarter for only the second time in his career, was sacked four times -- twice by defensive end Robert Quinn -- lost a fumble and did not pass for a touchdown until there was only 3:07 left in the game.

"This is what we knew," Brees said. "We knew we couldn't turn the ball over, that's a recipe for disaster. We knew we had to be able to stop the run and we were not able to do that early on. We had a field goal missed and a field goal blocked. We had opportunities to score points in the red zone and didn't. That can't happen. Penalties that prevent touchdowns at the end of the first half. That's a recipe for disaster. It will get you beat every time.

"We were in the red zone six times and came away with 16 points. That's not us. That can't be us if we want to play well and win."

The loss dropped the Saints to 10-4 while the Rams are now 6-8. The Saints can still clinch the NFC South and the No. 2 seed in the playoffs with a win next Sunday at Carolina, also 10-4, but the Saints know the road has not been kind to them this year. They are now 3-4 away from the Superdome, including only one win in their past five road games.

"Much has been written about how we have played at home and how we have played on the road and that's where it is right now," said Saints coach Sean Payton. "We came out here with a lot at stake ... and we can't line up to kick a field goal, we can't get the run stopped, we turned the ball over. We did everything we talked about that you can't do to get a road win.

"The way we played today was unacceptable. ... There wasn't a lot of things that were encouraging today to be honest with you."

One of the pre-game story lines was how Brees should be able to take advantage of a young and injury-depleted Rams secondary, but it didn't turn out that way.

On the Saints' first offensive play, Brees' pass intended for tight end Jimmy Graham was intercepted by safety T.J. McDonald, the first interception of his career. On the next play Clemens hit tight end Cory Harkey, who broke two tackles as he tight-roped down the right sideline for a 31-yard touchdown.

Brees also threw an interception at the goal line by cornerback Trumaine Johnson. Brees had only thrown one interception in his previous five games and just eight total this season.

What the Rams said

"We lean on the running game. That's been our formula for success since week five, and again it goes back to the offensive line. I didn't get touched. They did a great job." -- quarterback Kellen Clemens.

What the Saints said

"We're kind of proving you guys (the media) right right now, which is unfortunate because we certainly don't feel that way about ourselves. The record doesn't lie. We have to play better on the road." -- Quarterback Drew Brees about the Saints, who are now 3-4 away from the Superdome, including only one win in their past five road games.

What we learned about the Rams

1. The Rams have one of the best pass rushers in the NFL in defensive end Robert Quinn. His two sacks of Brees increased his season total to 15, second in the NFL to Indianapolis' Robert Mathis (16.5 sacks).

2. Zac Stacy is a quality running back. He has three 100-yard games for the season, including 133 on Sunday, and increased his season total to 854 for the season. He needs 146 in the Rams' last two games to reach 1,000 for the season -- and he did not move into the starting lineup until the fifth week of the season.

What we learned about the Saints

1. Playing on the road continues to be a problem. The Saints are now 7-0 at home and 3-4 on the road, including only one win in their last five road games. The Saints have averaged 18.4 points a game on the road compared to an average of 32.9 points a game at home.

2. There might be a change coming into the starting offensive line. Left tackle Charlie Brown was pulled from the game in the third quarter as he couldn't stop Rams defensive end Robert Quinn. Coach Sean Payton would not discuss a possible move in his postgame comments.
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