Los Angeles Rams: Top observations after win over the Saints


The Los Angeles Rams moved to 8-3 after defeating the NFC South leading New Orleans Saints in Week 12 at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

On Sunday from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Los Angeles Rams became one of just seven NFL teams to reach the eight-win mark after an impressive 26-20 win over a strong New Orleans Saints squad.

After such a big victory over the Saints, there was plenty to glean from Los Angeles’ latest outing. With that, my top five observations from the Rams latest triumph.

1. As touched on above, the Rams became one of just seven NFL teams to have reached eight wins prior to Week 13 with their toppling of New Orleans. Heading into this season, nobody expected head coach Sean McVay’s young club to have this much success, this soon.

As it stands now, L.A. is in the running for one of the coveted top two seeds — and a first round bye — in the upcoming NFC playoffs. Obviously, the Rams want to do all they can to secure one of those spots. That said, while they own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Saints, they currently sit behind the Philadelphia Eagles (10-1) and the Minnesota Vikings (9-2) and are tied with the Carolina Panthers (8-3) for the conference’s three seed.

Beyond that, the Rams must still hold off the aforementioned Saints (8-3) plus the Atlanta Falcons (7-4) Seattle Seahawks (7-4) and Detroit Lions (6-5) to ensure they lock up a postseason bid. While I expect them to eventually punch a playoff ticket, Los Angeles has tough sledding on the way in Weeks 13 through 16 — at the Arizona Cardinals (5-6), versus the Eagles, at Seattle and at the Tennessee Titans (7-4) before closing out the 2017 campaign in the City of Angels against the San Francisco 49ers (1-10).

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2. Wade Phillips’ defense continues to impress, holding a superb Saints offense that was averaging 30.2 points per game (second in NFL) to just 20 Sunday. In fact, New Orleans had averaged 34.8 points per contest over their last six games, making the Rams defensive performance all the more impressive.

Anytime you hold Drew Brees to 223 passing yards, one touchdown and a QBR of just 20.5, you did a whole lot right. In particular, the defense did a heckuva job against the Saints potent screen game. While they did give up a big 74-yard touchdown run to the ultra-impressive Alvin Kamara, they only gave up three yards per rush on sixteen other New Orleans carries. Over the last seven games, the Rams have relinquished just 14.4 points per outing, in stark contrast to the 26.25 per game they allowed in the first four games.

3. While the Rams offense wasn’t necessarily spectacular Sunday, putting up 26 against the then ninth ranked Saints defense was nothing to sneer at. Most impressive of all was the play-calling from McVay, who wisely called twice as many pass plays (44) as run plays (22) against a D that was minus two of their top defensive backs.

In doing so, McVay showed wisdom and common sense while continually pounding away at a depleted New Orleans secondary that ultimately gave up two touchdowns and 327 passing yards. Once again, the Rams offensive line held up very well in pass protection, which provided quarterback Jared Goff with lots of time to scan the field, resulting in completions to eight different targets.

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Clearly, the key to slowing down the L.A. offense is in consistently pressuring Goff as the Minnesota Vikings did in Week 11, but that’s easier said than done for most teams against the Rams consistently stout front five.

4. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp — who notched his first professional 100 yard receiving game vs. the Saints — continues to make big plays for the Rams offense. His eight receptions for 116 yards Sunday were particularly key with Robert Woods out due to injury. Yes, he’s had a couple of critical drops this year, but overall, Kupp has provided exceptional production after coming out of Eastern Washington as a third round pick.

His 46 catches at 13 yards per clip has resulted in a major boost to the offense. His ability to regularly get open has been huge for Goff’s rapid year-two development. At his current rate, Kupp is on track for 67 catches, which is highly impressive as the team’s No. 3 option in the pass game.

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5. For a second consecutive season, Los Angeles has been incredibly blessed on the injury front, remaining remarkably healthy through 11 games. While it looks like the Rams will unfortunately miss outside linebacker Connor Barwin for a couple of weeks or so (and that will hurt considering his four sacks and overall understanding of the defense), the Rams should continue to count their lucky stars in regard to injuries and hope and pray they continue the generous amount of abundant health they have been afforded over the past two years.