The Rams lost a tough matchup on the road on Sunday, falling for the first time in five games to the Vikings, 24-7. But L.A. won't have it any easier this weekend, as it plays to host New Orleans — a team that has won eight in a row after dropping its first two contests.
In Week 11, the Saints won a game they had a 98.9 percent chance of losing, according to ESPN's win probability chart, turning a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter into a three-point overtime win.
As such, the leaders of the NFC South have become one of the hottest teams in the league, owing much to their high-powered offense, anchored by veteran quarterback Drew Brees.
"They do such a great job of making people defend the width and depth of the field in the pass game," Rams head coach Sean McVay said on Monday. "I think it's a very well-versed offense where it's quick screens, play actions, [and] movements — they do it all and they do it all very well."
Last week, Brees threw for 385 yards and two touchdowns. Four different receivers — Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Alvin Kamara, and Coby Fleener — had at least 75 yards receiving. Plus, the Saints also boast the dynamic
running back duo of Kamara and Mark Ingram, who have combined for 11 touchdowns and 1,925 yards from scrimmage this season.
"There's a very clear-cut philosophy on how they want to operate," McVay said. "They're a nightmare to prepare for and it's why they're one of the best in the league and it shows very quickly."
On top of the team's "variety of playmakers," New Orleans is headed by one of the NFL's most-revered playcallers, head coach Sean Payton.
"I think you look at just the production since he's been the head coach in New Orleans, they're one of the top offenses year in and year out," McVay said. "I've always had a lot of respect for him as a play caller, just watching the rhythm and the flow of a game. He's one of those guys that seems like he's got a great feel."
Payton has been coaching in some capacity since McVay was just two years old. In his 11 seasons with the Saints, Payton has led New Orleans to three NFC South Championships and the franchise's' first Super Bowl win in 200 — leading the league in scoring twice and ranking in the top ten nine times.
And while the Rams head coach has himself blossomed into one of the league's brightest offensive minds, McVay admitted that he has "a lot of respect for Payton," and "absolutely" looks up to him as a head coach.
"There's some similar things that we try to implement, but they've done it as well as anybody in this league for a long time," he said. "You hear us talk about consistency and they've consistently produced year in and year out and that's the truest measurement of performance."
McVay has met with Payton only once in his career — a brief interaction at the NFL owner's meeting — but he
walked away feeling impressed with Payton's openness and willingness to share.
"Very helpful, offered advice, how you handle team meetings, [and] different things like that," McVay said of Payton. "It was casual conversation just hanging out with the guys, but he's a guy that I have a lot of respect for."
"He and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer are very close friends and I've always enjoyed kind of picking his brain about the way they've operated since they did it so well and won a World Championship in New Orleans together," he continued. "So I respect it and definitely try to take a couple things from what he's done so well for so long."