Sunday, December 12, 2010

Week Fourteen Review: Saints Sacrifice Rams

The New Orleans Saints had one of their best performances of the 2010 regular season in a game where they made big plays on both sides of the ball.

Heavily favored over the NFC West leading Saint Louis Rams, the Black and Gold comfortably exceeded the expectations of the oddsmakers thanks in large part to starting free safety Malcolm Jenkins.

Jenkins, who executed what was the team’s most remarkable play of the year in Dallas, had the best day of his professional career against the Rams with two picks on the day, one returned for 96 yards for a touchdown.

Quarterback Drew Brees had a better day than most other quarterbacks but a little off for him, completing 25 of 40 passes (62.5%) for 221 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Brees also gained some yards with his feet, scrambling for seven.

The Saints offense was well balanced, gaining 132 yards on the ground. Returning running back Pierre Thomas, who had missed much of the season with an injury, received more touches than expected due to running back Chris Ivory going down with a hamstring issue.

Thomas had 39 yards on 12 carries and 29 yards on 4 receptions. Running back Reggie Bush had a decent day picking up 39 rushing yards on 9 carries and 22 receiving yards on 5 catches.

Wide receiver Marques Colston continued to have greater success in the season’s second half. Though the “Quiet Storm” only had 5 catches for 46 yards (one his lower totals in yards this season), the big receiver had two touchdown catches for the second time in the last five games.

Considering that the Rams defense is one of the league’s better squads at sacking quarterbacks, the Saints offensive line played well only allowing Brees to be sacked once.

And while the offense piled up the points, the Saints defense had a great outing after disappointing play in Dallas and Cincinnati. The “d” held the Rams to two field goals and a touchdown. Most significantly they had three takeaways, with Jenkins’s two picks and a forced fumble by strong safety Roman Harper that was recovered by cornerback Jabari Greer.

Harper also had one of the Saints’ three sacks against Saint Louis Rams quarterback and likely rookie of the year Sam Bradford. Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, the quarterback of the Saints defense, had a sack, a forced fumble and led the team with tackles with seven.

About the only things that didn’t go right for the Saints on the day was a kickoff fumble by return specialist Courtney Roby, who was seriously injured on the play and left the game on a stretcher, and the Atlanta Falcons’ win over the Carolina Panthers.

Atlanta maintained their 1.5 lead over the Saints (when factoring the tie-breakers) with three games left on the schedule. The Saints would have the top wild card seed if the playoffs began today, sending the Black and Gold, ironically enough, to Saint Louis.

Raising the Bar

Brees expanded his franchise records on Sunday increasing his totals for pass completions to 1,934, passing yards to 22,153 and touchdown passes to 150.

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