By Bill Coats 11/12/2007 7:23 pm

In explaining how it felt to finally have his offense perking, especially in an enemy arena, coach Scott Linehan chose a basketball metaphor.

“When you start making your shots, that rim just gets bigger and bigger,” he said a day after the 37-29 victory in New Orleans snapped the Rams’ eight-game slide. “It’s the same way in football. When you start hitting those passes. it’s easy to get first downs and score touchdowns.”

When they walked into the Superdome, the Rams had produced just 19 points in four road games – none coming on a touchdown by the offense. They nearly doubled that point total vs. the Saints while rolling up a season-high 409 yards.

Quarterback Marc Bulger was stunningly accurate (he missed on only six of 33 passes), and wideouts Torry Holt (8 catches/124 yards), Isaac Bruce (4/62, 1 TD), and Drew Bennett (4/37, 1TD), and tight end Randy McMichael (4/41, 1 TD) worked over the Saints secondary.

The Rams were particularly effective on third down, converting eight of 13 chances. They weren’t all short-yardage situations, either. Along the way, they were successful on third-and-17 (21-yard pass to Holt), third-and-15 (40-yard pass to Bruce), third-and-9 (10-yard pass to Bennett), and third-and-7 (9-yard pass to Holt).

“When you’re executing and you get a third-and-17, you run a precision route like we ran with Marc and Torry and complete that thing just like you would do vs. air,” Linehan said. “It doesn’t matter what you call, it’s going to work, and the players feel the same way. The plays start to roll quicker and the tempo becomes better.”

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Although Steven Jackson didn’t have a huge day, rushing 22 times for 76 yards and catching five passes for 24 yards, his mere presence in the backfield had a major effect.

“I think the defensive mentality is different when he’s in there, and our team’s mentality is different when he’s in there, too,” Linehan said. “I think they definitely focus a little more on stopping 39 when he’s in the game.”

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Worried? Not me, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett insisted when asked whether the Saints’ 22-point rally in the fourth quarter had him concerned.

“I thought the game was in hand; we really weren’t nervous at all,” he said. “We held them to 95 yards offense going into the fourth quarter. . . . They made some plays in the fourth quarter, but we screwed up three (coverage assignments) that led to them getting two touchdowns. That was the only disappointing thing in the game. They were basic zone -drop, coverage, get depth, throw the ball underneath, make the tackle. . . .

“That’s stupid stuff. You do all the hard things and give up some stuff on the easy things.But I never, ever felt like the game was out of control.”

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Notes & quotes:

>>Barring a setback in practice, WR/KR Dante Hall (ankle) will suit up Sunday in San Francisco. He’s been out since Oct. 7.

>>TE Aaron Walker (shoulder) will have surgery Tuesday and is headed to IR. Look for guard Richie Incognito (knee) to join him sometime this week.

>>Finally running on two healthy legs, WR Drew Bennett looked like a different player.

>>Milford Brown, unimpressive at tackle, has been solid at guard.

>>Saints RB Reggie Bush was knocked cold when LB Pisa Tinoisamoa clobbered him after a 4-yard gain on a pass in the fourth quarter. The Rams challenged and should’ve been credited with a fumble recovery on the play.

>>After the Rams scored to take their biggest lead, 34-7, early in the fourth quarter, they had a preposterous time-of-possession edge of 33:49 to 12:03.

All for now. . .