Published 11:36 p.m. ET November 26, 2017
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Jared Goff realized that the upstart Los Angeles Rams faced a test of their playoff ability when the New Orleans Saints entered the Coliseum an eight-game winning streak.
Sure, the Rams have been one of the nicest NFL surprises under rookie coach Sean McVay. But after last week's loss in Minnesota, they find themselves in a series of tough games against other NFC contenders who should test whether this remarkable change in LA is real.
Faced with the daunting challenge presented by Drew Brees, Sean Payton and the Saints, the Rams did not give up in a 26-20 victory on Sunday.
"It was a great victory for us," said Goff, who pbaded for 354 yards and two touchdowns. "There is a difference between going 7-4 and 8-3, especially against a team like this, it's not necessarily something we have to win, but a game that will give us a lot of progress."
For the first time since 2006, the Rams (8-3) are guaranteed to end the regular season without losing a record. With five victories in their last six games, they have already doubled their win totals from their relocation season in 2016.
Those are great vision achievements of a team that prefers to stay focused on the incremental improvement demonstrated by an all-around of a solid effort against the Saints (8-3), which he had not lost since September 17. New Orleans has a long history of success and the Brees advantage proved, but Goff stood firm against Brees under pressure. of Cameron Jordan and the tough defense of the Saints.
"There were some games this year where we realized we could play with anyone," Goff said. "This was, without doubt, one of them."
Sammy Watkins and rookie Josh Reynolds caught Goff's goal pbades in an offense that responded well to the absence of main catcher Robert Woods, who has a shoulder injury. Todd Gurley had 74 yards on the ground and 54 yards to go, even when McVay could not control the ball for long periods.
And coordinator Wade Phillips' defense was largely excellent despite not forcing a change. The Saints got 157 of their 346 yards in the fourth quarter, and Los Angeles kept Brees with 246 pbading yards, just 96 in the first three quarters.
The whole game bore little resemblance to the club meeting last season, when the Saints embarrbaded the Rams with a 49-21 victory in New Orleans.
"You know what's great about last year, it was last year," said Rams linebacker Robert Quinn. "We do not think about that, we have a completely new coaching staff and a completely new team, we do not look back at what they did to a different team."
The Rams Limited all key contributors to the Saints, except Alvin Kamara, who had a brilliant 74-yard touchdown between his 188 total yards. The rookie also caught Brees' TD pbad with 1:45 to play.
"Look at a couple of moves that Kamara made, and you just say: 'I congratulate you,'" McVay said. "He's a special player."
A week after recovering 15 points down in the fourth quarter to beat Washington in extra time, the Saints were delayed in the opening campaign and never reached. New Orleans struggled to stop Goff's pbading game with his two best cornerbacks left out of injury, and the Rams moved the ball to win a game between two of the NFL's top three teams.
"We never found a good rhythm of run-pbad," Brees said. "I just felt like everything was a hard sledge, the moment we did something, there would be a penalty that would delay us, and then we would be out of the field."
The Rams are moving towards their first position in the playoffs since 2004 and his first winning season since 2003, but they still have a lot of work to do, starting with a visit to NFC West opponents, Arizona, next weekend. There are only two games left at home, including a visit from Philadelphia, leader of the NFL, in two weeks.
GREG THE LEG
NFL leader Greg Zuerlein kicked four field goals for the Rams, giving him 127 points in 11 games this season. He also missed a 63-yard attempt against the wind in the halftime gun, but McVay did not regret trying: "More times than not, he's going to hit that kick."
For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material can not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed.