‘Playbook’ on Rams-Saints: What the tape showed

When St. Louis beat New Orleans this weekend, we at “Playbook” were as surprised as all of you must have been – besides you hardcore Ram fans. We know you never wavered while seeing those glorious throw-backs gracing the turf.

Nonetheless, we were anxious to break down the tape to scoop out every reason why this upset occurred.

Here’s our breakdown:

Rams on offense

  • A.J. Feeley wasn’t remarkable, but he got the ball out on time and capitalized on the underneath passing game. He didn’t make every throw, and had one completion for more than 10 yards. But that 16-yard completion to Brandon Lloyd on third-and-6 with 5:17 remaining in the game and a 24-14 lead was a huge play in the game.
  • On the flip side, Feeley missed several big plays to Lloyd. They took deep shots to Lloyd in the first quarter, but one ball was under-thrown versus a Cover 2 look and another was overthrown against a “man-free” defense. Feeley also missed on a slant pass on third-and-6 versus that would have been a TD. They did connect on an 8-yard TD in the second quarter, however.
  • The Rams definitely committed to the passing game, throwing on 14 of 18 first downs during the first half. This might have been because the Saints stacked the box and were conscious of eliminating Steven Jackson on first downs. Feeley was 3-of-11 with 32 yards and was sacked three times on first down during the first half.
  • Still, the Rams wide receivers were effective in beating man-to-man defense, using bunch formations to create rubs and clear-outs to get each other open.
  • A Key Stretch in the game came in the second quarter:
    1. 1:41 – Robert Quinn blocked punt
    2. 1:13 – Jackson touchdown (10-0)
    3. 1:06 – Josh Gordy interception
    4. :08 – Lloyd touchdown (17-0)
    5. HALFTIME SCORE:  17-0,  St. Louis

Rams on defense

  • St. Louis was able to stall New Orleans’ offense with defensive pressure, totaling 6 sacks and nine quarterback hits.
  • Chris Long was a beast, dominating RT Charles Brown before he was injured. Long mixed up his moves – from a speed rush, to a spin inside to an outside rush – to get Brown off-balance. Robert Quinn also had his way with LT Jermon Bushrod. The Saints tried to help their tackles by chipping with the tight ends and running backs, but they didn’t do it consistently. When they didn’t, their tackles lost.
  • The Rams did not blitz, though. The Rams brought four rushers or fewer on 46 plays (92 percent of passing downs). Nine of those rushes included a stunt, but, more importantly, their defensive linemen generated a rush on one-on-one situations.
  • The Saints tried a different approach after allowing 3 sacks during the first half. They used play-action on six of the first seven pass plays of the second half, but were unable to sustain it because they were forced to abandon run game.
  • Al Harris helped the Rams tremendously in coverage. His press-man and one-on-one coverage allow the defense to leave him on an island. This allows safeties to roll away from Harris’ side and others to tighten coverage on the curl/seam areas of the field.

“Playbook” — the ultimate football Xs and Os show — airs Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network. Check the NFL Network broadcast schedule for further details. Follow “Playbook” on Twitter @NFLN_Playbook.

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