Sunday’s top NFL game: Rams end Saints’ winning streak

Greg Beachem
Associated Press

Los Angeles – The Rams methodically drove downfield on their opening possession, and Sammy Watkins caught a precise slant from Jared Goff for a touchdown.

Drew Brees then got the ball for New Orleans’ first drive, and the Rams sacked him on back-to-back plays.

From that auspicious start to the recovery of the Saints’ final onside kick, the Rams emerged from a dismal decade of losing football on Sunday with their most impressive win of the season.

And Goff’s squad seems capable of accomplishing a whole lot more.

Goff passed for 354 yards and hit rookie Josh Reynolds for another touchdown , and the Rams snapped the Saints’ eight-game winning streak with a 26-20 victory in a meeting of NFC division leaders.

The Rams (8-3) also ended a streak of their own: This franchise’s 10-year run of losing regular seasons is finally over.

For the first time since 2006, the Rams will finish at least at .500 after doubling their win total from their relocation season in 2016.

“That’s the best feeling ever, just being on a winning team,” said Watkins, who had four catches for 82 yards. “It makes it easy to go out there every week and work hard.”

The victory was an enormous statement about the Rams’ ability to play with the NFC’s best, but their fifth win in six games has put them in position for much bigger accomplishments.

After bouncing back soundly from a loss at Minnesota, this revitalized franchise is steaming toward its first playoff berth since 2004 and its first winning season since 2003.

“There were some games this year where we realized we could play with anybody,” Goff said. “This was, for sure, one of them.”

Alvin Kamara made a brilliant 74-yard touchdown run and a late TD reception for the Saints (8-3), who finally lost for the first time since Sept. 17.

Veteran coordinator Wade Phillips’ defense turned in a gritty effort against the high-scoring Saints, holding Brees to 246 yards passing — just 96 in the first three quarters.

“We never found a good rhythm of run-pass,” Brees said. “It just felt like everything was really tough sledding. The minute we’d get something going, there would be a penalty that would set us back, and then we’d be off the field.”

One week after rallying from 15 points down late in the fourth quarter to beat Washington in overtime, the Saints fell behind on the opening drive and never caught up.

“You could point to a number of things, but really, in so many areas, I thought we were sloppy,” New Orleans coach Sean Payton said.

“We hurt ourselves.”