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Rams defense faces tall task against Saints' Drew Brees and a strong running game

Rams defense faces tall task against Saints' Drew Brees and a strong running game
Saints quarterback Drew Brees looks to pass during a game against the Redskins on Nov. 19 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. (Scott Clause / The Daily Advertiser)

A week after the Rams offense struggled in its toughest test of the season, the Rams defense will be on the spot.

The New Orleans Saints roll into the Coliseum on Sunday with an offense that leads the NFL in yards, ranks second in passing and third in rushing and scoring.

Saints coach Sean Payton is the play-caller and future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees the triggerman for a team that improved to 8-2 with a 34-31 overtime victory over the Washington Redskins.

"If you look at the rapport between a play-caller and a quarterback, I think [Payton] and Drew are one of the examples of what it looks like when it's right," Rams coach Sean McVay said.

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A key for the Saints has been a rushing attack that features running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.

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That could be a problem for a Rams defense that has been inconsistent against the run.

In last week’s 24-7 defeat to the Minnesota Vikings, the Rams gave up 171 yards rushing. Latavius Murray ran for 95 yards and two touchdowns in 15 carries.

The Rams are giving up 123.3 yards rushing per game, which ranks 28th in the NFL.

"It's something that we've got to be aware of," McVay said, adding, "One game doesn't dictate and determine kind of the entire, you know, what we feel like we are."

Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner from Alabama, has rushed for 806 yards and eight touchdowns. He is averaging 5.2 yards per carry.

Ingram rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown against the Redskins, his second consecutive 130-yard rushing performance.

Last year against the Rams, Ingram ran for 146 yards and a touchdown in a 49-21 victory at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

Kamara, a rookie from Tennessee, has rushed for four touchdowns, and also has caught three touchdown passes.

Some of the Rams' defensive struggles against the Vikings could be attributed to an offense that did not perform to its previous level. The Rams ran only 56 offensive plays, forcing the defense to be on the field for 73.

After the loss, linebacker Robert Quinn said that fatigue did not substantially affect the defense.

"We have a pretty good rotation," he said. "When we needed to make a stop, they somehow converted a play and kept drives alive. We have to figure out how to get off the field."

But McVay acknowledged this week that the offense could have provided more help by controlling the ball and not forcing the defense to be on the field for upward of 70 plays.

"When we've been playing really well, typically it's in between more of the 50 and 60 range," McVay said. "Offense has a contribution to that as well. When we're not efficient on third downs, now we're putting the defense back out on the field."

The Rams failed to sack Vikings quarterback Case Keenum, a journeyman who escaped the pocket and made several key throws.

Now they face Brees.

The 17-year pro is completing 72% of his passes, 15 for touchdowns, with five interceptions.

Receiver Michael Thomas, who played at Woodland Hills Taft High, has a team-best 65 catches, two for touchdowns. Receivers Ted Ginn Jr. and Brandon Coleman have three touchdowns, tight end Coby Fleener two.

"They do such a great job of making people defend the width and depth of the field," McVay said, adding, "It's quick screens, play actions, movements — they do it all and they do it all very well."

Etc.

The Rams waived rookie tight end Johnny Mundt, indicating that veteran tight end Derek Carrier will probably return from a hamstring injury this week. Mundt was promoted from the practice squad before the Rams played the Houston Texans. Mundt could be signed to the practice squad again if he clears waivers. The Rams cut offensive lineman Jeremiah Poutasi, who was signed to the practice squad last week. … New Orleans signed cornerback Dexter McDougle, the second cornerback the Saints have added since Marshon Lattimore suffered an ankle injury last week. The Saints signed Sterling Moore on Monday. Defensive lineman Alex Okafor was placed on injured reserve. … The Rams were off Tuesday. They resume practice Wednesday.

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein

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