A look at how the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints match up for Sunday’s game:
Rams (1-0) vs. New Orleans (1-0)
When Rams have the ball
Quarterback Jared Goff has played against the Saints at least once in each of his previous three NFL seasons. He lost in 2016, won in 2017 with new coach Sean McVay and split in 2018, including an overtime victory in the NFC championship game. “It’s been dramatic,” Saints coach Sean Payton said of Goff’s progression. “I credit Sean and his staff. I think that the scheme fits, he does a great job of getting the ball down the field, he’s a big accurate passer, can move in the pocket and you see the confidence he’s playing with compared to, obviously, his first year.” Goff passed 186 yards and a touchdown, with an interception, in their season-opening victory over the Carolina Panthers. Goff was sacked only once against the Panthers. The offensive line faces a greater challenge against a Saints defense led by ends Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport. The Saints recorded six sacks against the Houston Texans. McVay figures to again rotate star running back Todd Gurley and backup Malcolm Brown in an effort to manage Gurley’s workload. Receivers Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp will operate against a secondary that features cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Eli Apple and safeties Marcus Williams and Vonn Bell. Williams intercepted a pass in the opener.
When Saints have the ball
Drew Brees, at 40 and in his 20th NFL season, comes into this game after giving a textbook clutch performance against the Texans. The NFL’s all-time passing-yardage leader expertly directed a game-winning, field-goal drive with 37 seconds left. Brees is not only accurate, but also gets rid of the ball quickly. “When you got a quarterback that don’t want to be touched and gets the ball out quick, it makes your job a little frustrating,” said Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who along with edge-rushing linebackers Dante Fowler and Clay Matthews must pressure Brees. A week after failing to neutralize Panthers dual-threat running back Christian McCaffrey, the Rams must try to slow down another dual threat in Alvin Kamara. The third-year pro rushed for 97 yards and caught seven passes for 72 yards against the Texans. The Saints also will deploy Latavius Murray as an alternate back. Last season, receiver Michael Thomas torched the Rams for 12 catches, 221 yards and a touchdown in regular-season victory, but the Rams limited him to four receptions for 36 yards in the NFC championship game. Receivers Ted Ginn Jr. and Tre’Quan Smith, tight end Jared Cook and hybrid quarterback-receiver Taysom Hill are other weapons. They will test cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters and safeties Eric Weddle and John Johnson.
When they kick
The Rams must fix the problems that plagued the punting game in the opener. Johnny Hekker’s first kick traveled only seven yards and another punt was blocked. Returner JoJo Natson also fielded a punt inside the five-yard line and was tackled at the six. Saints kicker Wil Lutz made a game-winning 58-yard field goal against the Texans. Thomas Morstead averaged 44 yards per punt.
Gary Klein’s prediction
It’s only Week 2 but if these teams are as strong as expected, the result could have a bearing on home-field advantage for the playoffs. The Saints are coming off a dramatic season-opening victory but that was at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Rams defeated them at the Coliseum in 2017.
RAMS 33, SAINTS 30