Los Angeles, Calif. – After a week one clash with the Carolina Panthers, the Los Angeles Rams will play their second NFC South opponent in as many weeks when they host the New Orleans Saints.
When it comes to the Rams and Saints, one play will always be remembered – it will be the defensive pass interference no-call on Nickell Robey-Coleman that helped put the Rams in position to win the NFC Championship and send them to the Super Bowl.
When reporters showed Nickell Robey-Coleman his hit on Lewis. His response: “Oh hell yea. That was PI.” pic.twitter.com/dorP2Js2R0
— Belly Up Sports (@BellyUpSports) January 21, 2019
Over the last two years, this series has had a rivalry renewed feel to it. The two teams used to play in the same division before the league’s realignment in 2001. The Rams lead 2-1 over the last two years and with both teams competing for a top spot in the NFC, Week 2’s home opener will be a high stakes meeting right out of the gate.
Schedule: Week 2, 4:25 p.m. ET vs. New Orleans
The Saints fell, 48-40, to Ryan “Fitzmagic” Fitzpatrick and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 at home, but went on to win ten straight games, including a 45-35 win over the Rams.
Quarterback Drew Brees led MVP talks as the veteran passer posted the highest passer rating and threw the fewest interceptions in a season in his career.
Despite a 10-1 record, the Saints faltered on the road against the Cowboys and then edged out three-straight come-from-behind wins against the Buccaneers, Panthers, and Steelers.
Against the Buccaneers it was a 14-11 fourth quarter comeback that ended in a 28-14 Saints win. Another fourth quarter comeback against the Panthers on the road made it back-to-back division road wins before a late touchdown at home against Pittsburgh gave New Orleans three straight wins headed into the final week.
With the number one seed, the Saints clinched the much-needed home field advantage. After falling behind, 14-0, against the Eagles, they stormed back to take the lead in the third quarter with a Brees touchdown pass to Michael Thomas.
In the NFC Championship Game, it was the Saints that jumped out to an early, 13-0, lead. Tied 20-20 with just under two minutes left, Brees threw a pass to TommyLee Lewis on the right sideline. However, before the ball arrived, Robey-Coleman made contact with Lewis and the pass fell incomplete. A run for no gain and incomplete pass set up fourth down as the Saints took just :13 seconds off the clock inside the red zone.
Lutz would make the go-ahead field goal before Jared Goff led the Rams down the field to tie. Still, Brees would get a chance in overtime as the Saints got the ball first. However, an interception from John Johnson at midfield put the Rams in position to win. Two passes from Goff to Tyler Higbee got the Rams into field goal range and then a 57-yard field goal ended a historic season for the Saints.
Biggest Offseason Gains/Losses
Added: RB Latavius Murray, TE, Jared Cook, NT Malcolm Brown, DL Mario Edwards, C Nick Eason, G Ryan Groy
Lost: S Kurt Coleman, RB Mark Ingram, DE Alex Okafor
The biggest loss for the Saints here is Okafor. The defensive end got a much-deserved pay-day in Kansas City and the Saints will miss his depth.
Micky Loomis replaces Ingram with Murray and Brown at just 25-years of age adds a run stopper in the middle of their defense. Jared Cook will be the most talented tight end on the roster since Jimmy Graham. Eason is a big investment on an unproven player.
A Look at the Draft
The Saints actually had a very good draft. With their first pick in the second round, they took a player the Rams had their eye on in center Erik McCoy. He’ll have a very good chance of earning a starting role.
They then get great value on day three as Chauncey Gardner-Johnson falls to them in the fourth round. Gardner-Johnson was seen as a first or second round pick by many.
Late on day three, the Saints took tight end Alize Mack who gives the offense a big-bodied athletic tight end.
With just five picks, the Saints made the most of them.
Biggest On-Field Question
The biggest question for the Saints is, is their window to win closed?
The Saints have come a ‘Miracle in Minnesota’ and an overtime loss at home away from potential Super Bowl appearances. Drew Brees is not getting any younger and the NFC South isn’t getting any easier.
The Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers will be looking to bounce back and the Buccaneers will be no pushover with Bruce Arians calling the shots. The Saints have a lot of young talent, but you have to wonder if the close losses the last two years will begin to have an effect.
Depth Chart Analysis
Quarterback: With Drew Brees under center, the Saints will always have a shot. He’s been one of the best in the league since he arrived in New Orleans and is no doubt a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Running Back: Alvin Kamara came out of nowhere in the third round two years ago. He’s become one of the best dual threat running backs in the NFL. With Mark Ingram leaving in the offseason, Kamara should take more of primary role. Behind him, the Saints have Latavius Murray who should provide good depth.
Wide Receiver: Michael Thomas has solidified himself as one of the best wide receivers in the league. However, there isn’t a lot behind him. Tedd Ginn Jr. remains their No. 2 and then Tre’Quan Smith and Cameron Meredith are behind him. I like Smith, but if a defense can contain Thomas, there’s a good chance you slow down the Saints.
Tight End: When the Saints won the Super Bowl, they had Jeremy Shockey and after him came Jimmy Graham. Since then, the Saints have been looking to solidify the tight end position. They signed Cook in the offseason and as mentioned earlier they drafted Mack out of Notre Dame. This will be an intriguing position to watch.
Right Tackle: One big reason for the Saints dominance over the last two years has been the resurgence of their offensive line. He has been one of the best all-around right tackles in the NFL over the past two years. However, there’s not a lot of good depth behind him.
Left Tackle: Protecting Brees’ blind side is Terron Armstead. Armstead was the second rated left tackle in the NFL last season according to Pro Football Focus. Behind him, there isn’t a lot of experience as Nate Wozniak didn’t play last year and Ethan Greenidge is a rookie.
Center: This will be an interesting position to watch. The Saints signed Eason in free agency, but couldn’t pass up McCoy when he was sitting there for them in the second round. Eason will have the early advantage, but given his history with injuries, don’t be surprised if McCoy is starting by the end of the year.
Left Guard: Andrus Peat has had his ups-and-downs and his 2018 was mostly down. However, he was a solid guard his first three years in the league. Still, signing Ryan Groy a few weeks ago will provide solid depth behind him.
Right Guard: Larry Warford has been as consistent as they come on at right guard. The Saints don’t have anybody listed behind him, but if needed someone like Groy or even McCoy could slide over if needed.
Defensive End: Cameron Jordan has been as dominant as they come at defensive end. He’s tallied double-digit sacks in three of the last four seasons. On the other side, Marcus Davenport will look to take the next step in year two. Behind them, Trey Hendrickson will look to earn more of a prominent role in the rotation.
Defensive Tackle: The team signed Malcolm Brown in the offseason and they will look at him to be that space eater on the inside. The Saints also signed Mario Edwards and Sylvester Williams to add depth.
Linebacker: Demario Davis and A.J. Klein each bring experience to the linebacker position. Davis might have been one of the Saints’ best free agent signings last year. The Saints however are might be the most vulnerable in the middle with Alex Anzalone slated to start. His rookie season was derailed by a shoulder injury and then Craig Robertson adds solid depth behind him.
Defensive Backs: Marshon Lattimore didn’t have as good of a second year after a fantastic rookie year, but he was still solid. Eli Apple had his struggles with the Giants, but came to New Orleans via trade and actually played well. PJ Williams and Patrick Robinson give the teams two very good nickel corners. This isn’t an elite group by any means, but they get the job done.
At safety Marcus Williams will always be known for his blown tackle against the Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs, but he was very good last season again alongside Vonn Bell. The Saints added depth behind them this offseason with Gardner-Johnson and Saquan Hampton.
2019 Outlook: The Saints will be looking to finally get over the hump in 2019. Last year looked promising, but mismanaging the final two minutes and a blown call and they were sent home. Will this year be the year that Brees gets his second championship?