Rams, Saints look to squash other's plans
Updated: Tuesday December 26, 2000 11:06 AM
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The St. Louis Rams quashed the New Orleans Saints' original game plan -- a victory and a bye week.
But the Saints say that's the last playoff dream the Rams will step on.
"We beat them up there, they beat us down here," Saints right tackle Kyle Turley said. "They're going to come back down here, and we're going to beat them and move on through the playoffs."
St. Louis (10-6), the sixth-seeded NFC playoff team, returns Saturday to face third-seeded New Orleans, which also finished 10-6 but won the West because they were 7-1 in the division to 5-3 for the Rams.
The defending Super Bowl champions did their part to make the playoffs by beating the Saints 26-21 on Sunday. Then they got the final wild-card spot when Chicago beat Detroit.
"Batten down the hatches, everybody," Rams wide receiver coach Al Saunders said. "Because we are back again."
New Orleans, which rebounded from a 3-13 season with hard play and solid defense, hopes to prove the Rams aren't back to stay.
"We know them now, we know what we have to do against them," Saints defensive lineman Norman Hand said. "This time we just have to make sure we get it done."
The Saints swept through the NFC West before stumbling against the Rams in the second meeting of the season. St. Louis seemed to befuddle New Orleans as it turned to a strong ground game and Marshall Faulk.
The Rams ran the ball for 246 yards -- 220 of those yards belonged to Faulk -- the second-most rushing yards of Faulk's career. He also broke the NFL record for touchdowns with 26.
Faulk also had seven catches for 41 yards and a touchdown.
"There's just no one else like him," New Orleans linebacker Keith Mitchell said. "He's got such deceiving strength, you know. It seems like he goes into the line and there's nothing there for him. But then they mark the ball and he's gained 5 or 6 yards out of nothing."
The Saints offense, which had thrived through the last four games with the inexperienced Aaron Brooks in for injured Jeff Blake, struggled against the Rams for the first three quarters. During that stretch, the Saints had five first downs, never putting as many as two together on a possession. It was only late in the game that the New Orleans got hot, scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
"We didn't play well in two phases of the game, we got beat, and we were still in the game with two minutes to go," Saints head coach Jim Haslett said. "As bad as we played on both sides of the ball, we were still in the game."
The Saints have played worse at home than on the road this season, but having their third straight game on their own field should also be a help Saturday, Haslett said.
"They played Monday night, Sunday night and they're coming back here Saturday, flying all around the country," Haslett said. "So that's three away games in a row for them. Two on Astroturf and another short week. I don't know if that's an advantage or not. But I'd think you'd have to start getting tired here pretty soon."