In each of the last four weeks, New Orleans has defeated a postseason contender. It walloped Washington. It stunned the Ravens in Baltimore, scoring 17 fourth-quarter points. It toppled Minnesota in Minneapolis, where Brees threw for all of 120 yards, his fewest in a full game since joining the Saints in 2006.
To beat the Rams, though, would require a certain kind of style, aggressive and unforgiving, and Coach Sean Payton knew it. Across the sideline he could see a tandem that just might have reminded him of the one that has fueled the Saints’ prolific offense these last 13 seasons, Payton and Brees, their relationship the paragon among play-calling coaches and their quarterbacks.
With Coach Sean McVay’s innovative system producing opportunities for Jared Goff to distribute the ball, in various ways, to players like Todd Gurley, who began Sunday with more touchdowns (15) than eight other teams, the Rams score — a lot. Under Payton, the Saints’ attack morphs every game — with new calls and formations and shifts, based on the opponent — into what Brees, after the Saints flogged the Giants on Sept. 30, characterized as an entirely new offense.
This week, that offense demanded a flea-flicker. On 4th-and-1, Payton summoned a pass for Brees — to catch. He also watched the Rams, with the score at 14-14 early in the second quarter, try a fake field goal that his defense thwarted.
“When a game is going in that manner,” Payton said, “you call a game a little differently.”
This is how Payton called it: as if, for a day, the Saints and Rams had infiltrated the Canadian Football League, where teams punt on third down. Improving his candidacy for the league’s M.V.P., Brees threw for 346 yards, recording his 22nd career game with at least four touchdowns and no interceptions.
In the first half, the Saints recognized the benefit of Brees’s giving the ball to Alvin Kamara, so he pitched it to him, shoved it in his belly, flipped it to him in the flat.
Trying to spot Kamara at the line of scrimmage, McVay said last week, was akin to finding Waldo. The first place McVay could have looked for Kamara on Sunday was the end zone. Kamara scored three touchdowns before halftime.