Pumped-up Payton coaches Saints to 49-21 rout of Rams
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Perhaps New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton hasn’t moved on, judging by his raised arms, vigorous fist-pumps, emphatic high-fives and searing glares across the field.
Perhaps he was just being diplomatic this past week, when he called Rams’ defensive coordinator Gregg Williams a good coach and downplayed the significance of their first game against one another since Payton fired Williams after the 2011 season — months before they both wound up suspended in the NFL’s probe of a cash-for-hits bounty program that Williams told league investigators he’d encouraged.
How else to explain why Payton looked more animated than any fan in the Superdome while the offense he designed unleashed a relentless onslaught — trick plays and all — on Williams’ defense in New Orleans’ 49-21 rout of the Rams on Sunday?
“He was fired up,” Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro said. “We all know why.”
Drew Brees passed for 310 yards and four touchdowns . Mark Ingram gashed the Rams for 146 yards on just 14 carries as the Saints (5-6) ended a two-game skid and maintained hope of a late playoff push.
Some razzle-dazzle produced a 50-yard touchdown pass from receiver Willie Snead to running back Tim Hightower. That play came with New Orleans already leading 42-21 with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Payton said the Saints ran the trick play because “we got the right look.”
In a largely subdued postgame media conference, Payton deflected credit to his players for piling up 555 yards and a season-high in points.
Yet several Saints didn’t hesitate to speak for their coach as it pertained to Williams’ presence on the opposing sideline.
“At no point in this week did their relationship or the history that’s here come up,” Saints right tackle Zach Strief asserted, but added, “plenty of us understand and know the situation. It’s human nature. First and foremost, we wanted to win. But let’s not lie to ourselves. There was more to it — and good for coach.”
Two of Brees’ scoring strikes went to rookie Michael Thomas, whose touchdowns of 6 and 21 yards were part of a nine-catch, 108-yard performance. Brees’ other touchdowns went to Ingram and Brandon Coleman.
“This one came down to our lack of ability on defense to get the ball back and stop them,” said Los Angeles coach Jeff Fisher, whose Rams (4-7) have lost six of seven. “You talk about 550 yards of total offense — that’s difficult to overcome.”
While there weren’t many highlights for Williams’ unit, it made a big play early on tackle Aaron Donald’s sack and strip of Brees that set up the Rams’ second TD on Jared Goff’s 6-yard pass to Kenny Britt.
Williams “coached the way he normally coaches on the field and in the meeting rooms,” Fisher said. “He motivated the guys and we just had a bad day.”
Goff, the NFL’s top overall draft pick last spring, completed 20 of 32 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns. He had his share of brilliant throws in his first road start, including a pin-point 24-yard scoring pass to Tavon Austin. But he also was intercepted by Vaccaro and lost a fumble on a sack by rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins.
One of Ingram’s most productive games came just 10 days after he was knocked unconscious at Carolina. His highlights included a 61-yard scamper, a 10-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-1 play and a 21-yard score on a screen to the right side of the field, which was wide open as the Rams tried to pressure Brees.
The screen “was just a great coaching call on third-and-11,” Ingram said. “I get out there and there’s four black jerseys and one white jersey, so that makes it easy. I feel like any of you guys could have scored.”
GOING FOR IT
After falling behind 14-7, the Saints surged in front on consecutive fourth-down touchdowns less than two minutes apart. In both situations, the Saints were stuffed on third-and-1.
Ingram scored the first of those touchdowns when he took a pitch to the left side and then wrong-footed pursuers with a sharp cut back toward the middle.
New Orleans quickly got the ball back when end Paul Kruger recovered Goff’s fumble on the L.A. 10. Four plays later, Brees dove over his linemen to make it 21-14. It also marked the first time this season any NFL team scored two fourth-down TDs in the same game.
Brees became one of three players with 30 touchdowns in nine different seasons, joining Brett Favre and Peyton Manning. Brees has done it nine seasons in a row. He is also the second quarterback in NFL history to reach 30 career games with at least four touchdown passes (Peyton Manning, 35).
During the second quarter, the Rams announced that offensive guard Rodger Saffold had a hand injury. In the second half, the Rams announced cornerback E.J. Gaines had a chest injury. In the third quarter, Saints left tackle Terron Armstead briefly required attention by trainers before walking to the sideline. He did not return.
It doesn’t get easier for the Rams, who visit New England next Sunday.
The Saints are back in the Superdome on Sunday against Detroit.
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