The New Orleans Saints defeated the Rams 27-20 in the Superdome on Sunday.
What we learned from a loss that stretched the Rams’ lead to four games and dropped them to 3-7 this season:
The defense collapses: A last-minute loss to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a few weeks ago was excusable. Brady has made a career of picking apart defenses to earn game-winning points — and the Rams’ offense should have ended the game.
But when journeyman Colt McCoy coolly sliced and diced the Rams in their loss to the Arizona Cardinals, something was wrong.
On Sunday, Andy Dalton — a longtime starter for the Cincinnati Bengals, now with his third team in three seasons — completed 21 of 25 passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns for New Orleans. Taking direct snaps, Taysom Hill rushed 52 yards in nine carries and completed one of three passes for 14 yards.
“We’ve had a few situations where our offense was rolling and had some momentum, and the defense has to be able to step up … and keep them out of the end zone,” Rams safety Nick Scott said. “We didn’t do that.”
The Rams can’t force a turnover, but that’s nothing new.
They have not intercepted a pass or recovered a fumble in four straight games. They’ve only forced one turnover in the last eight games.
In several games, they came close but dropped balls that would have been interceptions or fumbles that bounced into opponents’ hands.
This was not the case with the Saints, who made nowhere near a costly mistake.
The Rams could count on Bryce Perkins or John Wolford to move forward: After quarterback Matthew Stafford left the game to be checked for a concussion, Perkins stepped in and led two drives that ended in field goals.
Perkins was the backup Sunday because Wolford was inactive after suffering a neck injury during the previous week’s loss to Arizona, a game Wolford started because Stafford was on concussion protocol.
Against the Saints, Perkins completed five of 10 passes for 64 yards and rushed in five carries for 39 yards.
“Bryce came in and did some good things,” said coach Sean McVay.
Perkins began warming up after Stafford went into the medical tent on the sidelines. Perkins said he received support from teammates on offense.
“I let them know it was going to be a little bit different, but we’ll make arrangements, so I appreciate these guys giving me a hug and helping me,” Perkins said. “You did a great job picking me up.”
Tutu Atwell can catch a deep pass: Atwell, a second-round draft pick in 2021, scored the first touchdown of his career when he caught a 62-yard pass from Stafford down the left touchline in the first quarter.
“It felt great,” Atwell said. “Matthew put it out and went and got it.”
It was only the second career reception for the 5-foot-9, 165-pound Atwell, who caught a 54-pass from Stafford in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi Stadium on Oct. 9.
Atwell had been inactive for the last two games.
But after star wide receiver Cooper Kupp recovered from ankle surgery, Atwell and other receivers had more chances against the Saints.
Teammates celebrated with Atwell after the touchdown.
“Everyone was happy for him,” Perkins said. “You could see it on the sidelines, everyone jumping up and down and hitting him before he got off the field. That’s what football is about.”
Cam Akers was right: Akers, a third-year running back, claimed before and after his exile earlier this season that the key to an effective rushing attack was simply giving him and others enough opportunities to find a rhythm.
Akers rushed for 61 yards in 14 carries, including a 13-yard run.
“I just want to stick with it, be consistent and build on that,” Akers said.
Kyren Williams can contribute: Williams, a rookie running back, turned his first career carry into a first down.
It was a big moment for Notre Dame’s fifth-round draft pick. He was sidelined during training camp with a foot injury and eight games with an ankle injury sustained while covering a kickoff in the opening game against the Buffalo Bills.
Williams played the Cardinals but didn’t have a carry or reception. He said during the week that he was glad to have settled in.
On Sunday, he ran for 36 yards on seven carries, including one for 17 yards.
“Something I’m used to – and I just have to keep going,” he said. “There were some runs that I missed. Some I’ve overthought and exaggerated and didn’t remember my basics.
“That’s something I need to watch the film and come back next week to get better.”
Offensive line injuries never seem to stop: Left tackle Ty Nsekhe suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter and was replaced by Bobby Evans.
Evans became the fourth player to compete in left tackle this season, after Joe Noteboom, Alaric Jackson and Nsekhe.
Matt Skura started on the left for the first time.
Leonard Floyd starting to heat up: Floyd didn’t have a sack in the first six games of the season.
But he has amassed five in his last four games, including two against New Orleans. Both of Floyd’s sacks contributed to the Saints being forced to kick field goals.
Aaron Donald and Greg Gaines also picked up sacks.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-11-21/rams-saints-takeaways Rams-Saints takeaways: Defense slips; Stafford need replacing?