Frustrations boil over for Saints in loss

ST. LOUIS – An afternoon of frustration reached a climax in the final minutes of Sunday’s game with the St. Louis Rams for Saints Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks.

Nicks and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer exchanged words on the sideline in the closing stages of the Saints’ 31-21 loss to the previously winless Rams in the Edwards Jones Dome.

“Basically, it was just a misunderstanding,” Nicks said after the game. “At the end of the day, if I did have a problem, it’s going to stay in-house no matter what.”

When asked if it was just frustration that was building throughout the game, Nicks said, “Absolutely. When you lose a game like that, it hurts. I let my emotions get the best of me, that’s all I can really say about that.”

A RARITY: The Saints had a punt blocked for the first time in eight seasons on Sunday when Rams defensive end Robert Quinn barged in and smothered a kick by Thomas Morstead with 1:36 to play in the first half.

The 265-pound Quinn overpowered Saints safety Jonathon Amaya to get to Morstead’s punt, and the Rams took over on the New Orleans 15.

Two plays later, the Rams scored on a 3-yard run by Steve Jackson for a 10-0 lead. The Rams got another touchdown after a Drew Brees interception to turn a 3-0 lead into a 17-0 cushion at halftime.

The last punt blocked against the Saints was on Dec. 7, 2003, when Tampa Bay’s David Gibson got one against Mitch Berger.

STREAKS EXTENDED: It didn’t mean much afterward, but Brees continued two streaks when he threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Lance Moore with six seconds to play in the game.

Brees has thrown at least one scoring pass in 35 straight games and is now just one game behind Brett Favre (36) and record holder Johnny Unitas (47).

Brees also completed 30 of 44 attempts and extended his NFL record with 20 completions or more to 28 games in a row.

INACTIVES: The Saints inactives were running back Mark Ingram (heel), tackle Zach Strief (knee), tight end David Thomas (concussion), linebacker Will Herring (hamstring), defensive end Turk McBride (shoulder), wide receiver Adrian Arrington and cornerback Johnny Patrick.

Inactives of note for the Rams were quarterback Sam Bradford (ankle), linebacker Brady Poppinga (calf), tackle Jason Smith (neck/concussion) and wide receiver Danario Alexander (hamstring).

INJURIES: Saints right tackle Charles Brown left the game with 11:25 to play in the game with a right knee injury and did not return. He was replaced by Pat McQuistan.

HAIL THE CHAMPIONS: While the Rams won for the first time in 2011, some of the loudest cheers early Sunday were saved for the St. Louis Cardinals, who Friday night won the World Series in nearby Busch Stadium.

Many of the Cardinals, including former Broadmoor High and LSU star Ryan Theriot, stood on the Rams sideline for pregame warmups. They were introduced during the first timeout of the first quarter before leaving to prepare for a downtown victory parade that began at 4 p.m.

LOUISIANA CONNECTION: Theriot spent time before the game visiting with Rams punter Donnie Jones, a former Catholic High and LSU standout.

Jones, one of the game captains Sunday, punted seven times for a 42.6 average with a long of 59.

Also on the Rams’ active roster is defensive end James Hall, a New Orleans native who is in his 12th NFL season.

LAGNIAPPE: Saints fullback Jed Collins had the longest play of his NFL career in the second quarter, a 14-yard reception from Brees. His previous long was a 3-yard catch. … Brees set a Saints record for career pass attempts and now has 3,356, surpassing Archie Manning’s old mark of 3,335. … The Saints lost the coin toss and are now 0-for-8 this season. … Morstead’s 62-yard punt in the second quarter was his longest this season. … The Rams wore throwback uniforms, replicas of the ones the 1999 team wore when it won Super Bowl XXXIV after the 1999 season.

Saints-Rams: Three Things to Know

THREE THINGS TO KNOW

1. SCORING DROUGHT: After allowing just seven points to the Colts last week, the Saints face another offensively challenged team as the Rams have just five touchdowns in six games and average just 9.3 points a game.

2. WEAK WEST?: Since becoming the Saints coach in 2006, Sean Payton has compiled a 9-2 regular-season record against the NFC West. One of the two losses, however, was to the Rams back in 2007 (37-29).

3. ROAD WARRIORS: The Saints, who are 27-17 under Payton on the road since he arrived in 2006, find themselves in a good spot Sunday as the Rams are only 6-21 at home since the 2008.

WHO HAS THE EDGE

Offense – Saints

Defense – Saints

Special teams – Saints

Intangibles – Saints

PREDICTION

Just like last week, the Saints can’t afford to let the hapless Rams do anything that would give them a shot at an upset. Getting a big early lead would do it since they’re averaging less than 10 points a game.

SAINTS 37, RAMS 10

Sheldon Mickles

Strief, David Thomas among inactives

ST. LOUIS – There were no major surprises that came out of the inactive list that Saints coach Sean Payton turned in about 90 minutes before Sunday’s game with the St. Louis Rams.

Tackle Zach Strief, who returned to practice this week after recovering from a sprained MCL in his right knee, and tight end David Thomas, who is being brought back slowly from a concussion, will each miss a fifth straight game.

Both Strief and Thomas, who were injured in a Sept. 25 game with the Houston Texans, were listed as questionable by Payton on Friday.

INACTIVES: In addition to Strief and Thomas, the Saints’ other inactives were running back Mark Ingram (heel), strongside linebacker Will Herring (hamstring), defensive end Turk McBride (shoulder), wide receiver Adrian Arrington and cornerback Johnny Patrick.

Not suiting up for the Rams are quarterback Sam Bradford (ankle), linebacker Brady Poppinga (calf), tackle Jason Smith (neck/concussion), wide receiver Danario Alexander (hamstring), defensive tackle Darell Scott (concussion), cornerback Justin King (groin) and running back Jerious Norwood.

FILLING IN: A.J. Feeley, who last week made his first start since 2007 in a 34-7 defeat at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, will step in again for Bradford against the Saints.

Saints activate Ivory from PUP list

ST. LOUIS – The Saints on Saturday added running back Chris Ivory to the active roster and waived tight end Tory Humphrey.

Ivory missed the first seven games while on the physically-unable-to-perform list as he continued to rehab from surgery on a fractured left foot in January and sports hernia surgery in August.

A second-year pro, the 6-foot-, 222-pound Ivory is expected to be a part of the backfield rotation Sunday because leading rusher Mark Ingram won’t play because of a bruised right heel.

Bruised heel to sideline Ingram against Rams

Saints rookie running back Mark Ingram will not be available for Sunday’s game with the St. Louis Rams because of a bruised right heel, coach Sean Payton said Friday.

Ingram, who injured his heel in Sunday night’s game with the Indianapolis Colts, missed practice for a third straight day Friday and was ruled out of the game when Payton issued his final injury report of the week.

Ingram, the Saints top rusher with 329 yards and three touchdowns on 85 carries, will be replaced in the backfield rotation Sunday by 2010 leading rusher Chris Ivory.

Ivory has been on the physically-unable-to-perform list for the first seven games after missing all of training camp while recovering from a fractured left foot and sports hernia surgery.

Payton said Ivory, a 6-foot, 222-pounder who returned to practice Wednesday, will be added to the 53-man active roster by Sunday to help Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas with the ball-carrying chores.

PRACTICE REPORT: Payton said middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma practiced on a limited basis Friday after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday’s workouts with a lingering knee injury.

Vilma has had to sit out practices to rest his left knee for several weeks, but has missed just one game. He is listed as probable for the Rams game along with defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (ankle), who was also limited Friday.

Tackle Zach Strief (knee) and tight end David Thomas (concussion) were limited and are questionable, while tight ends Jimmy Graham (ankle) and John Gilmore (neck/shoulder), linebackers Jonathan Casillas (knee) and Will Herring (hamstring), and defensive end Turk McBride (shoulder) are probable after having full participation Friday.

BRADFORD OUT: Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, the top overall pick in the 2010 draft, will miss Sunday’s game with a high ankle sprain that he suffered in an Oct. 16 against the Green Bay Packers.

Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said A.J. Feeley, who started last week for the first time since 2007, will get the call against the Saints. In a 34-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys last week, Feeley was 20-of-33 for 196 yards with one touchdown, one interception and a passer rating of 64.7.

Also out are tackle Jason Smith (neck/concussion) and defensive tackle Darell Scott (concussion). Wide receiver Danario Alexander (hamstring) is doubtful, while cornerback Justin King (groin) and linebacker Brady Poppinga (calf) are questionable.

BACK IN THE SADDLE?: It’s not known who will call the offensive plays Sunday because Payton didn’t want to give the Rams an advantage, but he’s expected to resume his normal duties after offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. sent plays in to quarterback Drew Brees last week.

Payton said he’ll reveal his plans at “noon Sunday,” which is when the game kicks off in the Edward Jones Dome. Payton, who’s still on crutches after he had surgery Oct. 17 to repair a torn meniscus and fractured tibia, said he doesn’t foresee problems in working from a visiting coaches’ booth.

“For the most part we should be fine there,” he said. “Generally, the newer stadiums have space. Some of the older stadiums are more of a challenge in regards to the visiting press box. Hopefully, this one will be all right.”

BREES, INGRAM MISS OUT: Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Dallas running back DeMarco Murray claimed the FedEx NFL Air & Ground Players of the Week on Friday, while Murray is the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week winner.

They won the weekly awards in an online vote of NFL fans. Brees and Chicago running back Matt Forte, a former Tulane star, were other finalists for the FedEx awards, while Ingram was nominated for the Pepsi honor.

Saints wary of struggling Rams

On paper, the Saints’ meeting with the winless St. Louis Rams on Sunday looks like a mismatch if there ever was one.

Of course, you can never take anything for granted in the NFL – which the current Saints who were with the team back in 2007 will readily tell you. That year, the Saints were coming off a fourth consecutive victory, a 41-24 bashing of the Jacksonville Jaguars, when they came across the 0-8 Rams and suffered an embarrassing 37-29 loss.

The 0-6 Rams look a lot like that 2007 Rams team, before their shocking upset in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Rams have five touchdowns this season, three fewer than the Saints scored in last Sunday night’s win over the Indianapolis Colts, and their 56 points – the second-lowest total through six games in franchise history – is six points less than the Saints had in a 62-7 clubbing of the Colts.

Running back Steven Jackson has three of the Rams’ five touchdowns.

That doesn’t mean the Saints are thinking about how bad they’re going to beat the Rams – not by any stretch of the imagination.

“We set a standard for how we’re going to play every time out, and it doesn’t matter who you play because this league is too hard,” quarterback Drew Brees said. “There’s too much that goes into it ￉ into the preparation throughout the week. You can never look at another team’s record and just assume that’s the type of game it’s going to be.”

BREES MOVES UP: After moving into 14th place in career touchdown passes with five on Sunday night, Brees can climb a couple of more notches in Sunday’s game.

The 32-year-old Brees tossed five scoring passes in the rout of the Colts, giving him 253 for his 11-year career and moving him past Drew Bledsoe (251) for 14th place.

With three more touchdowns, Brees will vault past Hall of Fame quarterbacks Dan Fouts (254) and Sonny Jurgensen (255) and into 12th place all-time.

PRACTICE REPORT: Even though running back Mark Ingram (heel) and middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) didn’t practice again Thursday, the Saints got a little bit of good news on the injury front.

Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (ankle) and weakside linebacker Jonathan Casillas (knee) practiced on a limited basis, however, after being held out of Wednesday’s workout.

Also working limited on Thursday were tackle Zach Strief (knee) and tight end David Thomas (concussion). Tight ends Jimmy Graham (ankle) and John Gilmore (neck/shoulder) and strongside linebacker Will Herring (hamstring) had full participation after being limited Wednesday.

BRADFORD HELD OUT: For the Rams, quarterback Sam Bradford likely won’t play against the Saints after he was sidelined again Thursday by a high ankle sprain that forced him to sit out last week’s game with the Dallas Cowboys.

While coach Steve Spagnuolo said Bradford was day-to-day, the second-year pro walked with a protective boot on his foot Wednesday.

Other key players missing Thursday’s practice were wide receiver Danario Alexander (hamstring), linebacker Brady Poppinga (calf) and tackle Jason Smith (neck/concussion).

NO TURNOVERS: The Saints had two firsts this season in the win over the Colts as they didn’t turn the ball over and their defense came up

with three takeaways, helping them win the turnover battle for the first time this season at plus-3.

That came one week after the Saints had four giveaways in a 26-20 loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Under Sean Payton, the Saints are now 16-0 in regular-season play when they have no turnovers and are 2-0 in the postseason.

CRUSHING WIN: The Saints win over the Colts was the most lopsided result in the six-year history of Sunday Night Football on NBC.

The Saints led 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, 34-7 at halftime and 48-7 after three quarters. The 62 points scored by the Saints tied the record for most points scored in a game since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

VOTING ENDS FRIDAY: Fans have until 11 a.m. Friday to vote on the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week and Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week honors with Brees and Ingram among the finalists in the respective categories.

Fans can vote online at http://www.NFL.com/FedEx and www.NFL.com/rookies. The winners will be announced later Friday.

Strief practices for first time in a month

METAIRIE — Saints starting tackle Zach Strief practiced on Wednesday for the first time since spraining the medial collateral ligament in his right knee on Sept. 25.

Strief, who has been sidelined for the past four games, worked on a limited basis as the Saints began preparing for Sunday’s game with the winless St. Louis Rams in the Edward Jones Dome.

Strief likely won’t play against the Rams, but he and coach Sean Payton said he’s right on schedule with his rehab. Strief said he began running 10 days ago and was happy to finally get back on the practice field.

“I think I’m on schedule. … This week was the best-case scenario, and I’m not sure yet where the rest of the week will go,” he said. “I feel like it’s been a good rehab. I’m feeling good and we’ll see where it goes this week.

“There’s no surgery involved with an MCL, so the first (thing) is to get out running again,” he said. “The big thing is making sure that it’s stable and healed up. I think it’s real close. It was good to get on the field again.”

TRAINING ROOM COMPANY: Strief laughed when asked about having Payton, who is also rehabbing from a knee injury and fractured tibia, in the training room alongside his players.

“I’ll tell you, the dynamic changes a little bit when the coach is sitting in the training room all the time,” Strief said with a smile. “It is a little bit quieter. That’s a tough situation for him. I know he doesn’t want to be in there any more than we do.”

Strief said everyone wants to get out of the training room as soon as they’re done with their daily rehab assignment, but they’re sure to get a lot of work done with Payton around.

“You do a little less talking, a little less joking with each other because he’s sitting there — even though he’s harder on us than we are on each other,” Strief said. “He’s right there with us.”

PRACTICE REPORT: Payton said running back Mark Ingram (heel), weakside linebacker Jonathan Casillas (knee), middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (ankle) did not participate in practice.

Ingram injured his right heel in Sunday night’s game with the Indianapolis Colts and had a protective boot on his foot when he left the locker room.

Tight ends Jimmy Graham (ankle), David Thomas (concussion) and John Gilmore (neck/shoulder) were limited in practice along with Strief and strongside linebacker Will Herring (hamstring).

Defensive end Turk McBride (shoulder) worked fully after missing practice time last week and the Colts game with a shoulder injury.

ROSTER MOVES: To help out with the situation at tight end, the Saints signed Tory Humphrey and waived quarterback Sean Canfield.

Humphrey played with the Saints in 2009 and 2010 and was with the team in training camp, but was among the final roster cuts on Sept. 3.

The Saints also signed wide receiver Andy Tanner to the practice squad and released defensive tackle Swanson Miller.

BRADFORD SITS: Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, the first overall pick in the 2010 draft, was among a group of eight players who didn’t practice Wednesday.

Bradford missed Sunday’s 34-7 loss at Dallas with a high-ankle sprain and will be day-to-day this week, according to coach Steve Spagnuolo.

“When I say it’s day to day, you may think that’s coach lingo, but that’s legitimately what it is,” Spagnuolo said. “He’s in the middle of his rehab. Until the trainers feel that he can practice getting on his toes and dropping back, we won’t do that until we get the green light.”

Among the other players who missed practice were wide receiver Danario Alexander (hamstring), linebacker Brady Poppinga (calf), and tackles Rodger Saffold (illness) and Jason Smith (neck/concussion).

BREES HONORED: Drew Brees was named Wednesday as the NFC Offensive Player of the Week by the NFL for his performance in a 62-7 blowout of the Colts.

Brees completed 88.6 percent of his passes, going 31-of-35 for 325 yards and five touchdowns, and had a season-high passer rating of 144.9 while playing less than three quarters.

It’s the 11th time that Brees has been honored as the NFC’s top offensive player since joining the Saints in 2006.

VOTING CONTINUES: Brees and Ingram are up this week for two awards voted on by the fans.

Brees is a finalist for the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week honor and Ingram is a a nominee for the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week.

Fans can vote online at http://www.NFL.com/FedEx for the FedEx Air award and at www.NFL.com/rookies for the Pepsi award until Friday morning with the winners announced later in the day.

Brees, Forte, Ingram up for weekly awards

Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte, a former Tulane star, are among the finalists for the FedEx NFL Air & Ground Players of the Week awards.

The NFL announced Tuesday that Brees is one of three candidates for the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week award, while Forte, a Slidell native, is up for the FedEx Ground honor along with two other running backs.

Fans can vote online for one player in each category at http://www.NFL.com/FedEx until 2 p.m. CDT Friday. The winners will be announced Friday on NFL Network and NFL.com.

Brees completed 31 of 35 passes for 325 yards and five touchdowns in less than three quarters of work in a 62-7 romp over the Indianapolis Colts, while Forte rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown in a 24-18 win over the Tampa Bay Bucs in London.

Also, Saints running back Mark Ingram is one of five players nominated for the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week award after rushing for a career-high 91 yards on 14 carries in Sunday’s win over the Colts. Ingram also had one catch for 6 yards.

Fans can vote at www.NFL.com/rookies until 11 a.m. CDT Friday with the winner announced later that day.

Saints lead NFL in scoring after ripping Colts

With their record-smashing blowout of the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night, the Saints moved up several spots in the NFL rankings that were released Tuesday morning.

The Saints, who return to practice on Wednesday to begin preparing for Sunday’s game against a second straight winless opponent in the 0-6 St. Louis Rams, were expected to climb in the rankings after their 62-7 drubbing of the Colts.

It’s no surprise that the biggest gains on offense came in scoring and rushing.

The Saints matched the highest-scoring output since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger with their 62 points and they also piled up 236 rushing yards, which equaled the most productive game of the Sean Payton era. They also had 236 in a win over the New York Giants on Dec. 24, 2006.

They now lead the NFL in scoring with 34.1 points per game after ranking sixth a week ago at 29.5 points a game. They climbed nine spots in rushing, landing in ninth place with 126.1 yards per game after improving their seasonal average by 18.3 yards to 126.1 per game.

The Saints remained second in total offense (467.1 ypg) despite adding nearly 15 yards to their season’s average and in passing offense (341.0).

Defensively, the Saints continued to drop their scoring average as they moved from 26th to 17th after allowing the Colts just seven points. The Saints are allowing 22.6 points a game after limiting three of their last seven opponents to 13 points or less.

They also moved up three spots in total defense (349.3) to 14th and three spots in pass defense (233.6) and nudged up one spot in rushing defense (115.7) to 15th.

The Rams rank 28th in total offense (301.2) and 29th in total defense (410.3). As a result, they’re at the bottom of the league in points scored (9.3) and are second-to-last in points allowed (28.5).

They’re also tied with the Seattle Seahawks for the most sacks allowed with 23 in just six games.

Here are the pertinent rankings for the 5-2 Saints and 0-6 Rams going into Sunday’s game in the Edward Jones Dome:

SAINTS

Offense: Total yards, 467.1 (2nd); rushing, 126.1 (9th); passing, 341.0 (2nd); scoring, 34.1 (1st).

Defense: Total yards, 349.3 (14th); rushing, 115.7 (15th); passing, 233.6 (16th); scoring, 22.6 (17th).

RAMS

Offense: Total yards, 301.2 (28th); rushing, 93.0 (26th); passing, 208.2 (23rd); scoring, 9.3 (32nd).

Defense: Total yards, 410.3 (29th); rushing, 183.8 (32nd); passing, 226.5 (13th); scoring, 28.5 (31st).

Saints post most lopsided win in NBC SNF history

NEW YORK – The Saints 62-7 win over the winless Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night was the most lopsided result in the six-year history of SNF on NBC.

The Saints led 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, 34-7 at halftime and 48-7 after three quarters. The 62 points scored by the Saints tied a record for most points scored by any team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

The most recent was when the Jacksonville Jaguars walloped the Miami Dolphins, 62-7, in an AFC Divisional playoff game on Jan. 15, 2000.

Sunday night’s game registered an 8.2 overnight rating and a 13 share despite competing with Game 4 of the World Series (10.1/16), according to overnight data released Monday morning by The Nielsen Company.