Early mistakes down Saints in 27-16 loss to Rams
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The New Orleans Saints had a chance to clinch a playoff spot. After a disappointing loss to the St. Louis Rams, they're wondering just where they stand.
Drew Brees threw interceptions that led to touchdowns on the Saints' first two possessions and the Rams got big days from Zac Stacy, Robert Quinn and on special teams in a 27-16 victory Sunday.
"There are some things that have to be corrected," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "Obviously, a lot more than maybe we expected. I thought in all three areas we didn't play very well at all. We weren't ready to play. We looked flat coming out. I take responsibility for that."
The Saints (10-4) kept making mistakes that cost them throughout the first half, including Brees' interception on New Orleans' opening play from scrimmage.
"It didn't help that we had the turnover on the first play," Brees said. "You want to talk about waking the whole place up, that did it."
Brees was hit by Quinn as he tried to deliver the ball. That was the first of many meetings with Quinn, who had two sacks, giving him an NFC-leading 15, for a pass rush that took the heat off a young secondary.
The Saints, trailing 24-3 at the half, made it look respectable with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. They're unbeaten at home, but just 3-4 on the road and play at Carolina with the NFC South lead on the line next week.
"As you get later, the games become more important," New Orleans center Brian de la Puenta said. "This game could have sealed things up, so to speak. Maybe not entirely, but it would have been a step in the right direction. It just makes next week that much bigger."
Kellen Clemens threw for two TDs in the first quarter, matching his best performance in seven games as the fill-in starter for Sam Bradford. The Rams (6-8) recovered an onside kick to set up a field goal in the first quarter, and Michael Brockers blocked a field-goal attempt at the end of the half.
Brees was 39 for 56 for 393 yards, but with just one touchdown.
"I looked at the stat sheet," Brees said. "We were in the red zone six times. Six times, and only came away with six points. That's not us. That can't be us if we want to play well. We have to find a way to improve that."
The Rams played one of their strongest games of the year a week after getting eliminated, and the franchise is assured of a 10th consecutive season without a winning record.
St. Louis' offense had a nice day against Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who had an extended interview with the Rams in January before joining New Orleans.
The Rams have upset the Saints in the last two meetings in St. Louis. They were 2-14 in 2011, but one of the victories came against New Orleans, which totaled 13 wins that year.
Stacy shook off an early injury scare and set a franchise rookie record with 106 yards by halftime, bettering the likes of Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, Steven Jackson and Jerome Bettis. Stacy finished with 132 yards on 27 carries.
Brees scored on a 1-yard sneak early in the fourth quarter and threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Marques Colston with 3:07 to go. The Saints recovered an onside kick, but their comeback ended when Garrett Hartley was wide left on a 26-yard field-goal attempt.
Last week, Brees became the fastest in NFL history to 50,000 yards passing while throwing for four TDs in a 31-13 victory over Carolina at home. Brees was intercepted twice in the first quarter for the first time in a decade, putting the Rams in prime scoring position on the first and killing a drive on the second.
The Saints trailed 17-0 early in the second quarter, unable to overcome Brees' misfires.
Notes: Former Rams two-time Pro Bowl QB Marc Bulger, holding his daughter, was introduced during the break while Stacy was helped off the field. ... According to STATS, the first seven games, the Saints forced 15 turnovers and scored 48 points. They had no turnovers or sacks against the Rams, and over the last seven games they have just two takeaways.