After finishing a dismal 8-8 in 2003 and John Haslett's team in some form of disarray. The Saints are at a crossroads in 2004. With every other NFC South team having reached the playoffs or Super Bowl for that matter, these Saints are on a mission to prove they too can reach the playoffs and beyond. The word around Cajun country is this team lacks maturity and professionalism. 2004 is not easier for the Saints with Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons also rising and the Panthers looking to get back to the big dance.
With a 1-1 record so far in 2004 the Saints arrived at The Edward's Jones Dome with a mission. The Rams with a similar record are still asking questions from their previous game versus the Atlanta Falcons and Michael Vick. With the Falcons rising, the Saints were here to prove a point with their former NFC West rivals.
Six year veteran quarterback Aaron Brooks and Joe Horn led the Saints attack. With Deuce McAllister out with an ankle sprain, the Saints called upon a guy named Aaron Stecker to carry the load. Stecker's first start was huge, 19 carries for 106 yards and a 42yard touchdown to boot.
Aaron Brooks looked impressive from the start. With a good defensive front by the Rams in the first quarter with Polley,Little and Coady leading the way, the Saints were forced to settle for a 52yard field goal by John Carney. The Rams and Marc Bulger looked determined to amend the previous weeks loss to the Falcons and came out shooting. By mixing the plays Bulger devised a six play sixty-six yard drive using Kevin Curtis, Isaac Bruce and ending with a 32 yard touchdown pass to Torry Holt . This is the style of play that the fans are accustomed to at the Dome. This put the Rams ahead 7-3.
The second quarter was a rude awakening, the Saints and Aaron Brooks went to work on the Rams secondary. Brooks finished 24 of 41 for 316 yards and a touchdown. Early in the second, Brooks hit Horn for a 24 yard strike on a 3rd and 6 from the New Orleans 34 to setup the Stecker 42 yard touchdown. Saints went seven plays and 80 yards in a flash and tied the contest. Joe Horn and Donte Stallworth combined for 12 catches for 156 yards and a touchdown.
Then the Charles Grant and John Carney show began to unfold. The Saints combined for 5 sacks on the day with Grant having totaled 3 of the 5. The Saints defense led by C.Grant,A. Ambrose, D. Rodgers,and Courtney Watson led the Saints rush that forced the 33 yards total loss in sacks and a forced fumble. Combined with John Carney's 5 for 6 field goal day, the Saints win in overtime 28-25. With the victory, the Saints end the Rams dome streak of 15 straight games.
For the Rams and Marc Bulger another tough loss and lots of concerns. Bulger played solid football minus the fumble early. Bulger was 32 of 49 for 358 yards. He spread the ball in a passing offensive scheme with Isaac Bruce getting most of the catches. Bruce finished 8 for 134 and his third straight 100 yard day. The lack of a running game is the reason the Rams loss the game. This is Marshall Faulk's second week in a row with an under 100 yard game. Every time he is held under 100 yards the Rams are guaranteed to lose. Faulk finished with 12 carries for 44 yards and caught 5 passes for 46 yards.
With a tough schedule ahead for the Rams. The Rams must win the next two in order to stay in contention. With games against the San Francisco ***** and the Seattle Seahawks on the road, Marc Bulger is confident ," We were 1-2 last year and no one thought we could come back and take the division title." He added," So we've been there before. He firmly stated," No one in this locker room is going to give up."
Well, I guess we should give him the benefit of the doubt. It is still early. But so far this team has not shown that they can maintain a lead and hold anyone defensively. This was a game that they should have won in regulation. The large yardage plays killed them once again. I think they were waiting for Wilkins to pull some 53 yard miracles to match John Carney's day.
After the win by the Saints, Coach Haslett stated," I don't know if they don't like to play us." Well, the overtime win confirms it. Coach they really do not like to play you guys. With no turnovers to date the Rams are in for a rough road trip.

The Field Goal[B]