BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The grin on Drew Brees’ face as he discussed the longest of New Orleans’ seven touchdowns against the Los Angeles Rams showed how much the Saints’ record-setting quarterback enjoyed the 50-yard pass — even if he wasn’t the one who threw it.
“There’s an old adage: Let the throwers throw and let the catchers catch, but, man, that was pretty impressive,” Brees said.
All Brees had to do was zip a quick backward pass to Willie Snead, and then watch as the young receiver unloaded a deep throw to wide-open running back Tim Hightower. The play exemplified how well New Orleans’ offense was clicking en route to 555 total yards and a season-high point total in a 49-21 demolition of Los Angeles on Sunday.
Saints coach Sean Payton might have had a particular motivation to call the trick play, given that the coordinator of the opposing defense was Gregg Williams, who was fired by Payton after the 2011 season. A few months later, both wound up suspended for 2012 in connection with the NFL’s bounty probe. Sunday’s game marked the first time they had coached on opposite sidelines since.
“When I heard the play in the huddle, I’m like, ‘Oh, here we go,'” Snead recalled. “I was coming off the field and (Payton) said, ‘No, stay in, get back in the huddle.'”
“It’s just a great feeling to make a play like that,” said Snead, who played quarterback in high school. “We practiced it all week, and I was 3 for 3, and we got out here and (Payton) had the confidence in me to make the throw.”
New Orleans (5-6) already led 42-21 when the play was called with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Payton said the play was installed last week because of “tendencies” Saints coaches had recognized in the Rams’ defense. The play was called when it was because the Saints “got the right look” from the defense, Payton said.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher said he didn’t take it personally.
“We have to do a better job defensively,” he said. “We’ve got to do a better job coaching.”
Whatever the case, the play will go down as one of the more memorable aspects of the Saints’ victory over the Rams (4-7). Here are some others:
GOFF’S GROWTH: The last person Fisher was about to blame for the lopsided loss was rookie quarterback Jared Goff, who was making his second start and first on the road. Goff was 20 of 32 for 214 yards and three touchdowns to Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt and Lance Kendricks. He lost a fumble on rookie Sheldon Rankins’ sack and was intercepted by Kenny Vaccaro, but Fisher said the performance of last spring’s top overall draft choice “got better, which was encouraging.”
TIGHTENING UP: The Saints defense looked shaky in the first half, when Goff threw all three of his touchdown passes. But New Orleans shut out the Rams in the second half and continued to demonstrate improvement over early this season, when it gave up more than 400 yards in four of the team’s first five games. In five of the Saints’ past six games, their defense has yielded fewer than 360 yards, including fewer than 300 yards in the past two games. The Rams finished with 247 yards.
DERAILED DEFENSE: The Saints’ yardage and point totals were even more impressive in the context of how Los Angeles has played on defense this season. The Rams came in ranked sixth overall defensively, as well as sixth against the pass and 15th against the run. New Orleans finished with 346 net yards through the air and 209 on the ground. The Saints’ 49 points were one fewer than the Rams gave up in their previous four games combined.
Fisher sounded particularly bothered by running back Mark Ingram’s 21-yard touchdown on a screen pass.
“Anybody and everybody in the bayou knew it was going to be a screen but us,” Fisher said.
INGRAM’S BACK: Ingram was knocked unconscious during New Orleans’ previous game at Carolina 10 days earlier and placed in the NFL’s concussion protocol. He was cleared to return against Los Angeles and came back with one of his better games this season, gaining 146 yards on just 14 carries, highlighted by a 61-yard scamper and 10-yard scoring run to go with his receiving TD.
Ingram said he felt good and that his production stemmed in part from an entire offense playing with purpose against Williams.
“We tried to do everything we could to make sure his coming back here wasn’t a good experience,” Ingram said.
ROOKIE RESURGENCE: Rookie receiver Michael Thomas, who was relatively quiet during New Orleans’ recent two-game skid, responded with arguably his best game this season , catching nine passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns. His longest catch was a 35-yard grab in traffic over the middle and he broke tackles on his 21-yard score.
“He is pretty good after the catch so he made a few guys miss,” Payton said. “He is physical when he gets the ball. He is a tough guy to tackle.”
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