Tale Of The Tape: New Orleans Saints At St. Louis Rams
- QuarterbackThe Saints appear to be obvious favorites in this game, but there are no guarantees that New Orleans will match the effort it had against the Panthers in Week 14. Drew Brees is certainly capable of taking apart the Rams’ defense with his accurate passing and his ability to read defenses, but it’s difficult to see St. Louis coming up with a monumental effort in this game.The Rams have been struggling since Sam Bradford’s season-ending injury. Backup Kellen Clemens is playing with the requisite effort and he has had some good moments, but he has a difficult time being productive on a consistent basis. If Clemens is going to be effective, he needs the St. Louis running game and defense to play well.
- OffenseThe Saints have been getting some production from Pierre Thomas, but with 500 yards, a 3.9 yards per carry mark and just one TD, he’s not an elite back. The key to the Saints’ offense is the play of tight end Jimmy Graham. He is an explosive touchdown machine who is usually at his best when the game is on the line. Marques Colston is a solid possession receiver.The Rams need to get their running game going against the Saints, and that means Zac Stacy must be aggressive. He struggled badly against the Cardinals as he was held to 25 yards in 14 carries. Tight end Jared Cook has been a solid red zone and third down target for the Rams, while explosive Tavon Austin may be the fastest wide receiver in the league.
- DefenseThe Saints are at the top of the NFC South largely because their defense has improved so much this year. Rob Ryan has the Saints playing nasty and hard-hitting defense, and they rank sixth overall and third against the pass. Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton has come into his own this season as he leads the Saints with 108 stops. Defensive end Cameron Jordan has a team-high 11.5 sacks.The Rams are capable of playing solid defense, but only when their running game is being productive and taking time off the clock. The Rams rank 19th in overall defense, and nobody is more explosive than defensive end Robert Quinn, who has 13.0 sacks and combines speed with eye-catching moves. Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis has a team-high 96 tackles and nine passes defensed.
- Special TeamsThe Saints are fairly productive on special teams as Darren Sproles is capable of giving his team a lift, while the punt and kickoff coverage teams have been consistent. Garrett Hartley has made 21-of-27 FG attempts and this has not been his best season.Austin’s speed gives him a chance to return any punt or kickoff for a touchdown. The Rams have not allowed opponents to have a punt return of longer than 17 yards. Second-year placekicker Greg Zuerlein has made 20-of-22 FG attempts.
The Saints should come back down to earth after a superlative win over the Carolina Panthers. The Rams should be able to keep it close but the Saints will escape with the victory. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor