Saints 31, Rams 13

The Saints defense picked a good time to show up, preventing what should have been a blowout from turning into a rather embarrassing performance. Still, there’s a bit of work to do. Here’s a brief game review:

Generally speaking, the Saints dominated this game. There wasn’t much doubt that the Saints would win from the get-go. How solid was the outcome? Check out the Win Probability Graph from Advanced NFL Stats‘the Saints rarely dipped below 80% likely to win. Nice.

Digging deeper, there are a few troubling signs. After a great start, the Saints offense did not have a particularly good day, scoring only 24 points against a bottom-tier defense. The offense turned the ball over 3 times (2 interceptions and Roby’s completely understandable fumble on the kickoff return that sent him to the hospital), which severely limited their offensive efficiency.

In fact, the Saints offensive adjusted Yards Per Attempt was a meager 2.27, the second worst game of the season (behind the Cleveland game and in a virtual tie with the Arizona game). The primary reason for the low aYPA was Brees’ 2 interceptions, but his 62.5% completion percentage was a little low (for him). Brees had particular trouble hooking up with Marques Colston (who had only 5 catches of 13 passes thrown his way) and Robert Meachem (0 for 3).

These numbers are surprising: Meachem’s caught an NFL-high 74% of passes thrown to him this year, and Colston isn’t that far behind at 69%. I don’t have the game on tape, but I seem to remember a few drops. If either the Brees-Colston or Brees-Meachem combo had been better yesterday, the Saints offense likely would have had a much better day.

However, the defense covered for the offense nicely. They racked up 2 interceptions of their own (including one that Jenkins returned for a touchdown that essentially ended the game in the first half), sacked Sam Bradford 3 times, and forced a couple of fumbles. Overall, a dominating performance: they held the Rams’ punchless offense to 1.77 aYPA.

The end result: the Saints were much better than the Rams, despite having an uneven day on offense. It’s nice to play bad teams, eh?

Going Forward

All-in-all, a pretty good performance by the Saints, and the winning streak continues. I’d like to see more from our offense, especially as Reginald and Pierre Thomas get back into the swing of things. Next week, the Saints travel to Baltimore, and if the offense doesn’t play better than it played yesterday, the Ravens defense might make things unpleasant.

The Saints remain well-positioned for a playoff berth. While winning the NFC South is looking less and less likely, they remain in line to get the valuable #5 seed, which means a trip to St. Louis or Seattle for a first round playoff game. That would be nice.

While I don’t believe the Saints will beat the Ravens next week, yesterday’s win (combined with a Packers loss) helped create a little cushion in the wildcard race. Hopefully we’ll be able to earn that #5 seed and take advantage of a weak NFC West in the first round of the playoffs.