The New Orleans Saints seemed like they were in quicksand for most of an anxious second half. But, as he has done so many times, Drew Brees rescued them.
After seeing a 35-14 lead evaporate as the Los Angeles Rams made a charge, Brees led the Saints to a go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter. Then, after a rare stop by either defense, Brees hit Michael Thomas for 72 yards on third-and-7 to put the Rams away (and to cue up Thomas’ epic Joe Horn cell-phone celebration). That put the Saints up 45-35, and that ended up being the final score of a great matchup.
The Rams came into the game 8-0, the last undefeated team in the NFL. They leave still leading the 7-1 Saints by a half-game in the NFC standings, but New Orleans has a leg up in the potential tiebreaker with the head-to-head win. Brees’ pass to Thomas to seal the win might be a big deal at the end of the season when the NFC playoffs are seeded.
Michael Thomas has a huge day
We’ve seen Brees come through in the clutch so often, that when he was facing third-and-7 with the possibility of giving the ball back to the red-hot Rams offense late in the fourth quarter, it was probably the exact spot he wanted to be in. He came through with a perfect pass to Thomas for the back-breaking score.
And give Thomas credit, obviously. The Saints’ star receiver had a monster day, torching Rams cornerback Marcus Peters all day long. Thomas had 12 catches for 211 yards and that huge touchdown.
The Saints got a fourth-down stop after that, and then converted a fourth-and-1 after the two-minute warning to officially seal the win.
Saints let the Rams back in the game
Two conservative moments by the typically un-conservative Sean Payton and his staff gave the Rams life, despite New Orleans scoring 35 points in the first half.
After an unnecessary roughness penalty pushed the Rams back to their own 42 with nine seconds left before halftime, the Saints played way off in a soft zone defense. That allowed a remarkably easy (and fast) 20-yard catch. The Rams have a good kicker in Greg Zuerlein, and he came through with a 56-yard field goal to end the half. It made little sense to allow the Rams such an easy chance to get in Zuerlein’s range. That cut the Saints’ lead to 35-17.
Then in the third quarter, with the Rams having some momentum, the Saints punted on fourth-and-4 from the Rams’ 44-yard line. That’s not the craziest call to punt, but the Saints were acting pretty comfortable with a 35-24 lead at the time when they should have known the Rams had the offensive capability to get back in the game.
And that’s what happened.
Saints get a big edge in potential playoff rematch
There aren’t many teams with an offense so good that they could give up 35 points in a half, on the road to a good team like the Saints, and still get back in the game. The Rams tied it at 35-35 on Cooper Kupp’s long fourth-quarter touchdown, after it seemed the Rams were done at 35-14. Give the Rams a lot of credit for fighting back.
Los Angeles showed in the comeback that it’s every bit as good as its 8-0 record indicated. But the Saints were just a little better, thanks to a great play from Brees to Thomas. Wouldn’t it be fun to watch these teams run it back in January? After Sunday, there’s a much better chance that rematch would happen in the Superdome.
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