In a high-stakes clash of teams eyeing a spot in the playoffs, the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints faced off on “Thursday Night Football” at SoFi Stadium. The Rams, showcasing consistent form of a postseason-caliber team, emerged victorious with a 30-22 win over the Saints, resiliently holding off a late surge from New Orleans. This win propelled the Rams to an 8-7 record and significantly bolstered their chances of clinching a playoff berth.
Contrastingly, the Saints, now standing at 7-8, stumbled in this crucial game and will face an imperative matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next week. The concern doesn’t solely lie in their diminishing postseason odds but also in their lackluster performance displayed on Thursday night. Despite a fourth-quarter rally that saw them narrow the score to 30-22, they couldn’t bridge the gap further.
Key takeaways from this Week 16 showdown for both teams:
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams have been on a strong trajectory, winning six of their last seven games, with their only setback being an overtime loss to the AFC-leading Baltimore Ravens. Currently, they boast a 78% probability of making the playoffs, a significant rise from a potential 17% chance had they suffered a defeat.
Since quarterback Matthew Stafford’s return from a thumb injury in Week 11, the Rams’ offense has flourished, consistently scoring over 28 points in their last five games.
Running back Kyren Williams surpassed 1,000 rushing yards for the season, becoming the first Rams player since Todd Gurley in 2018 to achieve this milestone. Head coach Sean McVay has lauded Williams, emphasizing his impact on the team’s performance.
Stafford’s performance against the Saints was commendable, completing 24 of 34 passes for 328 yards and two touchdowns. He has now recorded multiple passing touchdowns in five consecutive games, marking his longest streak since joining the Rams.
The development of the Rams’ rookie pass-rushers is promising, with Kobie Turner leading NFL rookies with 6.5 sacks this season. Demarcus Robinson showcased a breakout performance, scoring a touchdown in his fourth consecutive game and solidifying his position as the Rams’ No. 3 receiver.
However, the Rams continue to face issues with their kicking game, highlighted by Lucas Havrisik’s missed field goal and a league-high count of 11 missed field goals this season.
Next game for the Rams: Facing the Giants on Sunday, December 31, at 1 p.m. ET.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints missed a significant opportunity to enhance their playoff prospects against the Rams. Defensive end Cameron Jordan acknowledged the importance of the game before its occurrence, stating that any faltering would relinquish control over their postseason fate. Unfortunately for the Saints, the loss not only diminished their chances but also removed their control over the NFC South race.
Despite a late resurgence led by quarterback Derek Carr, resulting in two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including scores to Juwan Johnson and A.T. Perry, the Saints’ earlier struggles and an early deficit prevented a complete comeback.
Their upcoming game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers becomes pivotal, as the Saints now face a more daunting task to secure a playoff spot.
Rashid Shaheed’s 45-yard touchdown stood out as a positive amidst the Saints’ challenging performance, marking his fifth reception of 40 or more air yards this season, a league-high and a noteworthy feat for a Saints receiver.
While Carr’s late-game touchdowns added some sheen to the Saints’ offensive display, their struggles against the Rams’ blitz and inefficiency on crucial downs were apparent.
A pivotal play involving J.T. Gray in the fourth quarter gave the Saints a short field and an opportunity for a quick touchdown, emphasizing the importance of such moments in altering the game’s dynamics.
Despite not being eliminated from playoff contention, the loss substantially increased the difficulty of the Saints’ path to the postseason.
Next game for the Saints: A critical matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their upcoming game.