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Road-weary Saints must beat Carolina for NFC South

The New Orleans Saints have slid back into a tie for first place in the NFC South.

Falling behind by 24 points at the end of the third quarter, the Saints dropped a 27-16 contest in St. Louis against the Rams on Sunday.

Here's what we learned Sunday:

  1. The Saints have lost four of their past five games away from the Superdome. They will have to go on the road to beat Carolina next week if they're going to win the NFC South. Of the top four NFC teams, New Orleans has shown the most blemishes over the past five weeks. A big part of that is Jimmy Graham's partially torn plantar fascia. Arguably the most dominant skill-position player in the league early this season, Graham been held under 60 yards seven times in the past nine games after clearing 100 yards four times in the first five weeks.
  1. Credit coach Jeff Fisher for a masterful game plan after assuming Tim Walton's responsibilities as defensive coordinator. Peeved over Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's abrupt departure last offseason, Fisher had his troops ready to play at a fever pitch Sunday. The Rams intercepted Drew Brees on his first two possessions, and never looked back.

  1. The Saints haven't been able to establish a successful ground attack all season, leaving their offense one-dimensional. In 14 games, they've topped 100 yards on the ground just four times. That's a major issue for a team that might have to go on the road to start the postseason.
  1. Robert Quinn bolstered his case for Defensive Player of the Year with two more sacks on Brees. The fastest defensive end in the NFL, Quinn leads the league in forced fumbles in addition to combined quarterback sacks, hits and hurries.
  1. After a two-game departure, the Rams got back on track with their formula of a swarming front seven on defense combined with a ball-control offense with tackle-breaking rookieZac Stacy as the focal point. Stacy is too far behind Keenan Allen, Eddie Lacy and Giovani Bernard in the race for Offensive Rookie of the Year, but he belongs in the discussion.

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