New Orleans — Perhaps New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton hasn’t moved on, judging by his raised arms, vigorous fist-pumps, emphatic high-fives and searing glares across the field.
Perhaps he was just being diplomatic this past week, when he called Rams’ defensive coordinator Gregg Williams a good coach and downplayed the significance of their first game against one another since Payton fired Williams in 2011 — months before they both wound up suspended in the NFL’s probe of a cash-for-hits bounty program that Williams told league investigators he’d encouraged.
How else to explain why Payton looked more animated than any fan in the Superdome while the offense he designed unleashed a relentless onslaught — trick plays and all — on Williams’ defense in New Orleans’ 49-21 rout of the Rams on Sunday?
“He was fired up,” Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro said. “We all know why.”
Drew Brees passed for 310 yards and four touchdowns. Mark Ingram gashed the Rams for 146 yards on just 14 carries as the Saints (5-6) ended a two-game skid and maintained hope of a late playoff push. Some razzle-dazzle produced a 50-yard touchdown pass from receiver Willie Snead to running back Tim Hightower.
Payton said the Saints ran the trick play because “we got the right look.” In a largely subdued postgame media conference, Payton deflected credit to his players for piling up 555 yards and a season-high in points.
“At no point in this week did their relationship or the history that’s here come up,” Saints right tackle Zach Strief said. “Plenty of us understand and know the situation. It’s human nature. First and foremost, we wanted to win. But let’s not lie to ourselves. There was more to it — and good for coach.”
Two of Brees’ scoring strikes went to rookie Michael Thomas, whose touchdowns of 6 and 21 yards were part of a nine-catch, 108-yard performance. Brees’ other touchdowns went to Ingram and Brandon Coleman.
“This one came down to our lack of ability on defense to get the ball back and stop them,” said Los Angeles coach Jeff Fisher, whose Rams (4-7) have lost six of seven. “You talk about 550 yards of total offense — that’s difficult to overcome.”
While there weren’t many highlights for Williams’ unit, it made a big play early on tackle Aaron Donald’s sack and strip of Brees that set up the Rams’ second TD on Jared Goff’s 6-yard pass to Kenny Britt.
Williams “coached the way he normally coaches on the field and in the meeting rooms,” Fisher said. “He motivated the guys and we just had a bad day.”
Lions at Saints
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, Superdome, New Orleans
Records: Lions 7-4, Saints 5-6
Series: Saints lead 12-11-1 (Lions 35, Saints 27, Dec. 21, 2015)
Line: Saints by 4