Rams delay Saints' postseason plans with 27-16 win
The New Orleans Saints looked like a team playing out the string. And, although the St. Louis Rams are out of contention yet again, they're not going quietly.
Drew Brees threw interceptions that led to touchdowns on the Saints' first two possessions and the Rams got big days from Zac Stacy, Robert Quinn and on special teams in a 27-16 victory Sunday.
Quinn had two sacks, giving him an NFC-leading 15, for a pass rush that took the heat off a young secondary. His quarterback hit on the Saints' first snap of the game altered the flight of the ball on T.J. McDonald's interception.
The Saints (10-4) missed their first chance to clinch a playoff berth, trailing 24-3 at the half, but made it look respectable with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. They're unbeaten at home, but just 3-4 on the road and play at Carolina with the NFC South lead on the line next week.
Kellen Clemens threw for two TDs in the first quarter, matching his best performance in seven games as the fill-in starter for Sam Bradford. The Rams (6-8) recovered an onside kick to set up a field goal in the first quarter, and Michael Brockers blocked a field-goal attempt at the end of the half.
Brees was 39 for 56 for 393 yards, but with just one touchdown.
The Rams played one of their strongest games of the year a week after getting eliminated, and the franchise is assured of a 10th consecutive season without a winning record.
St. Louis' offense had a nice day against Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who had an extended interview with the Rams in January before joining New Orleans.
The Rams have upset the Saints in the last two meetings in St. Louis. They were 2-14 in 2011, but one of the victories came against New Orleans, which totaled 13 wins that year.
Stacy shook off an early injury scare and set a franchise rookie record with 106 yards by halftime, bettering the likes of Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, Steven Jackson and Jerome Bettis. Stacy finished with 132 yards on 27 carries.
Brees scored on a 1-yard sneak early in the fourth quarter and threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston with 3:07 to go. The Saints recovered an onside kick, but their comeback ended when Garrett Hartley was wide left on a 26-yard field-goal attempt.
Last week, Brees became the fastest in NFL history to 50,000 yards passing while throwing for four TDs in a 31-13 victory over Carolina at home. Brees was intercepted twice in the first quarter for the first time in a decade, putting the Rams in prime scoring position on the first and killing a drive on the second.
The Saints trailed 17-0 early in the second quarter, unable to overcome Brees' misfires.
Quinn had perhaps his best game of the year. On his second sack, he stripped Brees and then recovered the fumble in the third quarter to help keep the Saints down.
Cory Harkey broke three tackles on a 31-yard touchdown catch the first play — just his seventh reception of the year after Brees' first interception.
Brees floated a rollout aimed at Jimmy Graham, who was in triple-coverage, and Trumaine Johnson snared another underthrown pass at the goal line. The Rams drove 93 yards, helped by a pair of personal penalties, and made it 14-0 on Clemens' 4-yard pass to a wide-open Lance Kendricks.
The Rams followed up with perfect execution on an onside kick by kicker Greg Zuerlein recovered in the air by a leaping Stedman Bailey, setting up a field goal for a 17-0 cushion early in the second quarter.
Clemens got a chance to use the victory formation the Rams practice after Brockers blocked Hartley's 36-yard field-goal attempt with 2 seconds left.
The New Orleans hit the practice field at 11AM this morning for their third practice of the week. The Saints will continue preparing for this week's game at Indianapolis with a night practice from 7PM to 9PM at Mandeville High School.
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