NEW ORLEANS — While it was a back-and-forth battle early, the Saints scored 21 straight points in the second quarter to take a commanding lead over the Rams. Los Angeles mounted a comeback scoring 21 consecutive points of their own. But New Orleans was able to score 10 points in the final period to come away with a 45-35 victory.
The game began to turn in the second quarter, ironically after a Los Angeles takeaway. With the score tied at 14, outside linebacker Samson Ebukam forced a fumble on New Orleans running back Mark Ingram. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald recovered the loose ball at the home team’s 22-yard line, setting up L.A. with terrific field position.
But the Rams’ offense couldn’t get anything going. Quarterback Jared Goff threw a pair of incompletions, before completing a six-yard screen pass to wide receiver Brandin Cooks. On 4th-and-4, head coach Sean McVay elected to call a fake field goal, with punter/holder Johnny Hekker taking the ball to the right side. And while it looked to the naked eye as if Hekker had reached the line to gain, he was spotted short. McVay challenged the ruling on the field, but it stood as called.
From there, New Orleans ripped off 21 consecutive points to take a commanding 35-14 lead.
Los Angeles cut the deficit with kicker Greg Zuerlein’s 56-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter and the comeback was on. L.A. tied the game early in the fourth quarter, but New Orleans scored 10 straight points to take a lead that would last the rest of the contest.
Sunday's matchup did start in a back-and-forth manner with both teams executing well on offense. New Orleans took an early lead on their opening drive, moving 75 yards in 12 plays to get into the end zone. Running back Alvin Kamara finished off the possession with an 11-yard touchdown to the left, with Kamara breaking a couple tackles, as he often does, in the process.
Los Angeles didn’t take long to tie the game up, with quarterback Jared Goff connecting with tight end Tyler Higbee on the left side for a 33-yard reception.
But it was running back Todd Gurley who brought the ball into the box, taking four carries for 29 yards on the possession. He gave L.A. 1st-and-goal at the eight-yard line with a 14-yard gain, then scored on a pitch to the right for an eight-yard touchdown. Gurley broke a franchise record by scoring in his 12th consecutive regular-season game on the play.
After a 16-yard touchdown reception by Kamara, L.A. responded well with a former Saint. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks caught a a 48-yard deep pass off play-action down the left side to move the club into the red zone. And following a defensive holding penalty, Goff hit Cooks again — this time in the back-right corner of the end zone for a four-yard touchdown pass.
With the score tied at 14, that’s when Ebukam and Donald combined for the takeaway.
The Saints took a 21-14 lead with a four-yard pass from quarterback Drew Brees to wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith, then extended it after kicker Greg Zuerlein missed a 51-yard field goal with a 13-yard touchdown from Brees to tight end Ben Watson.
Down 28-14, Los Angeles had an opportunity to get back on the board with 1:06 left in the second quarter and two timeouts, but Goff’s first pass of the possession was picked off by linebacker Alex Anzalone. The Saints made the Rams pay for the turnover, with Kamara scoring his third touchdown of the game from just a yard out.
The Rams, however, did cut the lead to 18 with a 56-yard Zuerlein field goal as time expired to end the first half.
Los Angeles kept the scoring going to start the third quarter, driving 77 yards in 11 plays to score a touchdown. Tight end Gerald Everett kept the possession going on 3rd-and-7 with a 13-yard pass on a slant route off the right side. Then on 3rd-and-8, Goff evaded the pass rush in the pocket, moving to the left to find running back Malcolm Brown with a short pass. Though the running back got hit inside the five-yard line, he was able to somehow keep his feet in bounds and extend the ball across the pylon for an 18-yard touchdown.
The defense then did its job, forcing a punt for the first time all game when linebacker Cory Littleton and cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman combined to bring down Ingram four yards short of the line to gain.
Starting with the ball on their own 16, Los Angeles got down the field with a pair of chunk plays. Gurley ripped off a 24-yard run up the middle to get L.A. to its own 40. Then Cooks caught a diving pass over the middle to bring the Rams 36 yards to the New Orleans 34.
Though the offense was able to get another first down, the drive stalled from there. But Zuerlein connected on a 34-yard field goal to cut New Orleans’ lead to just one possession with 1:30 left in the third quarter.
Down 35-27, the Rams were able to force another punt out of the Saints when the pass rush overwhelmed Brees in the pocket on 3rd-and-6 from the New Orleans 44.
Starting at the L.A. 17 after a New Orleans punt, Los Angeles went down the field and tied the game with an impressive 83-yard drive. Playing his first game since being sidelined by a knee injury against the Broncos, wide receiver Cooper Kupp caught three passes on the possession — including a 41-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-1. Kupp caught the pass on the left sideline and sprinted down the field, evading Saints defenders for the score.
McVay elected to go for two, and despite the fact that he sprinted down the sideline ostensibly to try to call timeout, Goff was able to connect with Everett on a tunnel screen to the left and the tight end dove into the box to tie it up.
But New Orleans was able to get back on top with a 54-yard field goal by kicker Will Lutz. And after an L.A. three-and-out, the Saints iced the contest with a 72-yard touchdown from Brees to Thomas on 3rd-and-7 with 4:02 left in the game.
Down 10, the Rams were unable to convert a 4th-and-2 play from midfield when Goff’s pass on the right side to Cooks was broken up for an incompletion.
Brees and the Saints then took over on downs and converted a 4th-and-short, allowing them to kneel it out from there.
With the loss, L.A. is now 8-1 on the season. The club will return home to the L.A. Coliseum next week for its second matchup with Seattle.