Rams hit the road to try to turn around season in New Orleans

The situation was very different the last time the Rams played the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome.

Coach Sean McVay and his 2018 team were on the rise as they defeated the Saints with a field goal in overtime to win the NFC Championship game and advance to Super Bowl LIII.

“It was very loud,” tight end Tyler Higbee said of the environment, “and ended up very quiet, which is good.”

The stakes won’t be as high on Sunday when the Rams play the Saints.

But once again, the Rams’ season is at stake.

The defending Super Bowl champion is 3-6, on a three-game losing streak, and moving toward the brink of elimination from the playoffs.

“Nobody expected to be in a position where you’re 3-6 after the season we’ve had,” said defenseman Aaron Donald. “But now we are here. … So we just have to try and figure out a way to dig our way out of a hole.”

With a road trip to play the mighty Kansas City Chiefs next week, a loss to the 3-7 Saints would almost certainly end any postseason hope for the Rams.

Despite the injuries sustained by star receiver Cooper Kupp and more offensive linemen — or perhaps because of this seemingly never-ending situation — McVay appeared less stressed as he met with reporters this week. It was a stark departure from the past few weeks, when 36-year-old McVay wore fear on his face.

“For real?” he quipped on Friday when a reporter noticed the change. “Well, I’m glad I fooled you.”

McVay’s calm exterior could be credited to quarterback Matthew Stafford’s return.

The 14-year pro sat out Sunday’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals with a concussion but was acquitted Friday and will start against the Saints.

Stafford has not played at his 2021 level. He has passed for eight touchdowns compared to 23 at the same point last season. His return could give a confidence boost to a team that fell to last place in the NFC West after losing to the Cardinals.

Stafford, who has been sacked 28 times, will operate behind a line that will include only one player – right tackle Rob Havenstein – who has started each game. Coleman Shelton is expected to start at center in place of injured Brian Allen. Shelton will likely be flanked by three players who weren’t in the Rams’ roster at the start of the season.

Last season, Stafford and the Rams bounced back from three straight losses in November and won the NFC West before winning Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.

But this team was 7-4 when the turnaround began.

Those Rams were swept by the second-ranked San Francisco 49ers and shared with the third-ranked Cardinals. At best, they could finish 3-3 in the division if they defeat the Seattle Seahawks in first place.

The Rams are “not out yet,” said cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

“Last time I checked we still have a couple of Sundays to play and if we win we’ll go to the playoffs for sure,” Ramsey said. “That’s what I think in my head.

“I don’t think that’s unrealistic.”

But only if something changes, Ramsey said.

“We may have to take a little more risk,” he said. “You also have to have some luck on your side. That’s fact.”

Linebacker Bobby Wagner played 10 seasons for the Seattle Seahawks before joining the Rams this season. Wagner advised younger players how quickly fate can change.

“When you’re trying to be in a moment, or when you’re in a moment, it often feels like it’s all coming down on you, but it can reverse in an instant,” Wagner said. “One game, one track, it doesn’t matter.

“Everything can be reversed.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-11-19/los-angeles-rams-new-orleans-saints-nfl-game-sunday-preview Rams hit the road to try to turn around season in New Orleans

Emma Bowman

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