Some other sobering trends were also reversed:
--- Entering the game, the Rams ranked 26th in the league in third-down efficiency at 36.7 percent and the percentage was 28.3 on the road. Against the Saints, the Rams converted eight of their first 11 third-down plays (72.7 percent) before missing on two third-quarter attempts, but still finished at 61.5 percent.
--- In the red zone, the Rams had been ranked last in the NFL in touchdown percentage, scoring just six times in 22 trips. On the road, they had failed on all nine red-zone penetrations. Against the Saints, the Rams scored four touchdowns in five trips, including a halfback pass by running back Steven Jackson to tight end Randy McMichael.
--- After having just 18 turnovers last season, the Rams had 24 this year, with 20 coming in the second half. They had no turnovers against the Saints and had two takeaways, which led to 10 points.
The offensive line that started the game was the same one that finished the Oct. 28 game against Cleveland, with Nick Leckey at right guard. Alternating at right tackle were starter Brandon Gorin and recently signed Rob Petitti. Leckey became the 11th different player to start a game on the line this season, and it was the 16th different line starter in nine games.
Despite four sacks, the line was solid in protection, which enabled quarterback Marc Bulger to have time to complete 27 of 33 passes for 302 yards.
"I am really proud of that offensive front," coach Scott Linehan said. "I have never seen anything like it and I hope to never see anything like it again, but it just goes to show you that guys can put it together. I am not even sure those guys even know each other that well or by name. They might have to introduce themselves again."
On defense, with defensive end Leonard Little out for the season, coordinator Jim Haslett came up with an attacking plan that blitzed as many as 16 times on 17 first-half plays and used middle linebacker Will Witherspoon as an end in passing situations.
Said safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, "The Saints have an explosive offense tailored around Drew Brees, who's just been playing brilliant. We felt that if we could just get some pressure on him, collapse the pocket a little bit, we'd have a better chance to make some plays.
"We attacked them, and it worked out for us."
The turning point might have come in the first quarter. The Saints moved 73 yards in 2:15 with the help of a 37-yard pass-interference penalty on Fakhir Brown to take a 7-0 lead. After the Rams went three-and-out after a second-down sack, it looked like the game was headed for a similar outcome the team had had on the road.
But, with pressure on Brees, Atogwe intercepted an underthrown pass on the second play of the next possession. The Rams then drove 62 yards, using 7:12, to tie the game on a Jackson 1-yard run, the team's first road touchdown of the season.
On the Saints' next possession, Brees was penalized for intentional grounding on second down and was sacked by Witherspoon on third down. The Rams then had another seven-minute-plus drive covering 80 yards, with a key 21-yard pass to Torry Holt on third-and-17 during the drive. The scoring pass from Jackson to McMichael gave the Rams their first lead of the season on the road.
After three quarters, the Rams held a time-of-possession edge of 32:57 to 12:03 and the Saints had 95 total yards.
"It was fun," said Haslett. "I thought we were in control the whole game; I thought we did exactly what we wanted to do. We got turnovers, we got sacks, we pressured (Brees).
"That's what we have to do the rest of the way to try to salvage this thing."
***** ***** *****
For the first time this season, QB Marc Bulger was able to take a knee to end the game in a Rams victory. Bulger left the field with the ball, and after coach Scott Linehan awarded game balls to defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, linebackers coach Rick Venturi and defensive backs Willy Robinson -- all former Saints coaches -- Bulger gave the final game ball to Linehan.
"I asked a couple of guys and they all agreed," Bulger said. "It was for sticking with us. It's not like he's been punishing us (for the losses). He gave us our time off and treated us like men.
"I think he's the reason why we came out with some energy (Sunday). It wasn't by accident. Obviously, he wasn't going to give himself the game ball and take credit. But I think it was important for him to be acknowledged for the job he did. He's maintained the same things that are important to us. He reiterates them to us every week. He knows if we stick to those we'll win games. He's positive. He still has trust in us and he knows we can get this turned around."
Said Linehan, "I'm very proud of our football team. I'm certain not many people gave this football team much of a chance going on the road, with the way we'd started our year. For obvious reasons, I don't blame them."
One thing Linehan said he's learned from this season is to never take winning for granted. He said, "You've got to enjoy them all. It's hard to win in this league -- and we proved that this year. You can get in a downward spiral, and it's hard to come out of."
***** ***** *****
RB Antonio Pittman was a fourth-round pick of the Saints, but the training-camp performance of undrafted free agent Pierre Thomas resulted in Pittman being waived. The Rams picked him up, and Sunday against his former team, Pittman rushed for 53 yards, including a 43-yard run to the 2-yard line that led to the Rams' final touchdown.
Pittman claimed he had no revenge on his mind. "It's not really about that," he said. "It's just good to get a victory and have an opportunity to play."
Said Linehan, "It was a big play, a really crucial drive. It was really nice to see Pittman in there against his old team."
***** ***** *****
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
WR Isaac Bruce aggravated a left hamstring injury in Sunday's game against New Orleans, but nothing will be known about his availability for the next game until at least Wednesday or Thursday.
--- TE Aaron Walker, a former 49er, underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. Walker will be placed on injured reserve and miss the rest of the season.
--- DE Leonard Little, already on injured reserve with a toe injury, underwent surgery Monday in Charlotte. Little will need between four and six months recovery time.
--- OG Richie Incognito, who underwent knee surgery last week, is looking like he will miss the rest of the season. Incognito could be placed on injured reserve as soon as Tuesday.
--- C Brett Romberg was too sore to play Sunday because of an injured ankle, and will be evaluated later in the week during practice.
--- WR/KR Dante Hall, who was inactive Sunday because of an ankle injury, is expected to play in next Sunday's game at San Francisco.
--- S Todd Johnson was hit in the head in Sunday's game against New Orleans and will have testing during the week because of concussion symptoms he experienced.
--- CB Eric Bassey was showing symptoms of a concussion Sunday and will undergo tests to see if he will be available for the next game against San Francisco.
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