Week 1 in the books, great offensive performance in the 2nd half, clutch plays by NOLA #9 and Wil Lutz’ career long to win it as time expired – A much needed win and the way it was done will help give the Saints confidence and instill the “Never say die” attitude. Next up it’s a road game in LA to the Rams.
We all know what happened last time these two met in the NFC Championship game, time to put that behind us and delve into some detail about our opponents on Sunday.
I look at the Rams as a similar type of offense to the Saints. They have an elite Running Back, solid reliable Wide Receivers and a decent Quarterback. Similarly the Saints have an elite Running Back, an elite Wide Receiver with reliable 2s and 3s with Drew Brees as an elite hall of famer compared to Jared Goff who isn’t on his level yet. This Rams offense are a team which will no doubt score points this year as they did last year….Superbowl aside…..
A big part of their play will be Todd Gurley, I’m not sure LA ever really confirmed what the deal with Gurley was late in the 2018 season, some kind of injury niggle is most likely. What I can tell you is that he will be very involved come Sunday. With the Saints defense giving up 180 yards on the ground alone, this is an area for the Rams to try and exploit. Gurley got 1,411 on the ground and 585 through the air during the regular and post season combined which is 4 ticks shy of 2000 total yards.
A superb season for the RB and considering he only played 17 of 19 games that’s 117 yards per game with 23 total touchdowns. I expect him to be back towards his best this season and the Saints will need a much tighter run defense, the return of David Onyemata will help that one. Gurley started with 101 total (just 4 in the air) last week at the Panthers but no Touchdowns. Those scores were eaten up by RB 2 Malcolm Brown who twice ran it home for 53 yards on the turf. With focus on Gurley, Brown may be able to get more action this week. The Rams should play a run heavy offense with the deep shot option as a 3rd down tactic, we know how that worked for the Texans last week.
Let’s talk about the wide receiver corps. Robert Woods and Bradin Cooks both had over 1,200 yards receiving last regular season with Cooper Kupp being injured for half of it but still picking up 566. The group combined for 17 touchdowns over the season. The 3 main wideouts gained 155 yards total last week in Carolina with no scores off just the 17 receptions between them.
With the Saints giving up big chunk plays to WR’s against the Texans, the Rams will be taking more deep shots this week to expose the early season Saints secondary. Marshon Lattimore should be comfortable with whatever match-up he has but Goff and the Rams offense will be looking to Eli Apples pairing or if Marcus/PJ Williams are in man to man coverage. I do expect the Saints D to be better on these aspects this week but still to be exposed at times, let’s hope some inaccuracy leads to takeaways for the Black and Gold. Marcus Williams actually covered a huge amount of ground to take his pick last Monday so he definitely has the speed and awareness just needs to tighten up in close coverage.
Speaking of inaccuracy, Quarterback Jared Goff is now into his 4th year in the NFL (where did that time go!? Still looks about 12 to me). He had his best year to date last season with a huge 5400 yards over the combined season. 32/12 TD to Interception ratio (regular season) which was overshadowed by a 1/2 ratio in the post season. His completion % dropped by nearly 10% (from 64.9 to 55.7) from regular to post season which shows what happens when you play against playoff teams rather than regular season defences. Goff also didn’t start the season well last week with 23/39, 186 yards and 1/1 ratio his QB Rating was a lowly 69.0. Goff is where the Saints have a way in. If he continues his poor start the threat of the deep shots is taken away, sure they will complete a couple with the players he has to target but he isn’t on DeShaun Watson levels – a key match-up is Eli Apple’s cover man who I expect to be Robert Woods with ‘Shon taking Kupp.
Another way the Saints can get a way in is their D-Line versus the Rams O-Line. With 6 total sacks last week against, lets be honest, one of the worst Offensive lines in the league at the moment the Saints will have gained a lot of momentum and confidence. If they can get to Goff half as much this week but, and it’s a big but, make it count then they can win this game. A fumble, a turnover or a key sack could be the difference in this game. The Rams gave up 38 total sacks over the combined regular and post season which is 2 a game on average not massive but does show some weakness of either one part of the line or Goff staying the pocket too long looking for that key pass. Cam Jordan, Marcus Davenport and Trey Hendrickson will have to be on their game come Sunday and target the ball with Goff giving up 12 fumbles last season and 1 last week. A deflected pass would be nice too, I always think it’s underestimated how much difference this can make, get to Goff, get to the ball, make it counts boys!
Switching code to the defensive side of the play, the Rams have some playmakers. Pretty much every position has a good player which on their day can make a game changing play. After last week I’m quite happy with the Saints offense, especially the line which protected Brees extremely well but would like to have seen the run game established earlier in the piece rather than relying on Brees’ arm to get the yards. Aaron Donald looks like the one to beat for the Saints.
Donald was the defensive player of the year last season and for good reason, he racked up 20.5 sacks and 30 tackles for loss on his own plus forcing 4 fumbles. On the other side they have players too, with most of the attention on Donald that leaves Michael Brockers, Dante Fowler and the line-backers free to blitz. Ryan Ramczyk did a stellar job on J.J. Watt last week, another top performance from him can help protect Brees and give him the time he needs. A bonus with this match-up being early season is that fact that injuries haven’t taken their toll yet (fingers crossed) so there’s pretty much a full team to choose from every snap.
The cornerbacks are experienced and quality in Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. The pair combined for 4 picks last season (regular and post) but it was line-backer Cory Littleton dropping into coverage who gained the most with 4 on his own with 1 returned for a TD. He also recorded 4 sacks and 10 tackles for loss on the whole year. Michael Thomas should be fine because, well, he’s Michael Thomas but other options may be limited against this pair. Hopefully Ted Ginner Jr. can get in on the act again with those screens to Alvin Kamara being utilized more and more.
The Rams have taken a fancy to trick plays recently, especially against the Saints. Fake FGs and fake punts may be used again or they will try and copy the Saints multiple QB sets to confuse the defence, I’ve got a feeling Sean McVay has something tricky up his sleeve, watch this space.
I’m not overly confident with this one because of it being the early season and a road game against a Superbowl team. Honestly, it’s a coin flip game, 1 play can seriously make the difference here. I hope I’m wrong but I’ve got LA just pipping us here. Either way we will fully back the Saints and hopefully beat the Rams in their own house.
Rams 34– 31 Saints