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Rams-Saints: Lessons from 2009

I know you've tried to forget the St. Louis Rams' 2009 season. Can't blame you for that. Any time memories of that year get triggered it has a sort of brown acid flashback quality to it. It wasn't a total loss though, and the Rams near miss against New Orleans in week 10 was an exciting game by any standard. 

The Saints won that game to go 9-0 for their eventual championship season. Reality settled back in on the Rams after that game. This year, the Saints are a very similar team, featuring many of the same players. Not so for the Rams. 

Now, they meet again. Tune in, turn off and indulge the 2009 flashback with me as we go by the numbers after the jump.

26 carries, 131 rushing yards, 1 TD
It wasn't Steven Jackson's best game of the season, but it was close. The Rams ran Jackson early and often, forcing the Saints defense to constantly account for his presence on the field. That allowed Marc Bulger, who had struggled most of the season, to do a little more in the passing game. Up front, it was one of the few games that season featuring regulars on the offensive line. Adam Goldberg was starting at RG in place of Richie Incognito. Together, the starting five did a nice job blocking for Jackson. Runs in the middle and on the outside were effective, and SJax and the Rams averaged 4.9 yards per carry. Of course, running was much harder in the second half of the game. Jackson carried 10 times for 31 yards in the second half.

7 catches (9 targets), 93 yards
If you recall, this was a breakout game for Brandon Gibson, the performance that got fans excited about what he might be capable of doing with a little more time in the system. Gibson is getting plenty of reps now as injuries to the receivers have created even more opportunities for him. And he's really stepped up in recent games, making better catches, running precise routes and fighting for yards after the catch. 

3 turnovers
A first quarter INT by Oshiomogho Atogwe kept the Saints offense from building much momentum. In the third quarter, a James Butler INT and a forced fumble by Atogwe, kept the Rams in the game, down by just 3 points as the final quarter began. Considering the opponent, the defense did a magnificent job throughout this game. Turnovers were key to the Browns' win over the Saints earlier this season. Not only did they get 3 TDs from turnovers, they kept the Saints from doing any damage early in the game. 

97-yard kick return for a TD
Tied 14-14 to start the second half, the Rams allowed Courtney Roby to run back a 97-yard kick return for a score, giving the Saints a lead they would never relinquish. The Saints have been average in their return game this year, but the point of this is that the Rams can't afford costly errors anywhere on the field. 

19-yard TD reception & 29-yard TD reception
The deep ball wasn't a big part of the offense until late in the game. However, two deep passes proved to be particularly successful. Avery caught both passes, the 29-yard catch for the Rams first TD and the 19-yard catch for their last TD, a quick strike with just under three minutes to play.

That was Marc Bulger at QB; this is Sam Bradford. Yesterday, we noted just how well-equipped Bradford is for success on the deep ball, and argued that the Rams should be using it more, regardless of the risk. If they can stretch the field with Danario Alexander (and whoever else), then a multi-dimensional offense would give the Saints' defense the same kinds of problems they'll be looking to exploit against the Rams defense.