"When he met with the team Friday morning, coach Steve Spagnuolo said that somewhere in the course of Sunday's game against New Orleans, the Rams would have to make four or five "game-changing" plays to topple the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Turns out all the game-changers were made by the Saints in a 31-13 spanking that reminded the Rams once again that they still have a way to go before they can hang with the big boys in the NFL.
The biggest game-changer Sunday came with a minute to go in the first half and the Rams trailing 14-6. On second-and-4 from the New Orleans 15, wide receiver Brandon Gibson ran a hitch-and-go pattern toward the end zone. He beat cornerback Tracy Porter with the hitch move and broke open. But before the ball got to Gibson, Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins stepped in front to intercept the pass at the 4.
Jenkins didn't stop running until he reached the end zone for a 96-yard touchdown. Instead of a touchdown and 14-13 deficit, the Rams suddenly found themselves down 21-6 with 47 seconds left in the half. In an 18-point loss, it was a 14-point swing in the wrong direction.
The Saints never looked back, scoring on their second and third possessions of the second half and coasting to their 10th victory of the season, against three losses. The Rams fell to 6-7 but remain tied for first in the NFC West with Seattle and still have the tie-breaker edge over the Seahawks.
"To be honest, I thought I had" a touchdown, Bradford said. "I just wasn't able to put enough on the ball to get it there in time. The ball kind of floated on me. (Jenkins) made a good play. A nice pick."
Jenkins, who has replaced Darren Sharper in the starting lineup, had only one interception in two NFL seasons until Sunday. His 96-yard return was the third longest on an interception in Saints history.
"I got a good break on it," Jenkins said. "He didn't put much velocity on it and I was able to get it."
If there was anyone in the Superdome who felt worse than Bradford about the play, it was left tackle Rodger Saffold. It was the man Saffold was blocking, Saints defensive end Will Smith, who got the pressure on Bradford and made it impossible for him to step into the throw.
"I kind of put that on myself," Saffold said. "Because maybe if Sam was able to step into it or something he might have been able to get it over the head (of Jenkins), and then it would've just been an easy over-the-shoulder catch."
Or Bradford could've zipped the ball in quickly enough that Jenkins would've been unable to get there.
"I got too aggressive" in pass-blocking Smith, Saffold said. "He's a very, very good defensive end — he's so evasive. When you're dealing with that type of defensive end, you've got to slow your feet down a little bit because if you move too quick, he's able to react very quick.""
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