ST. LOUIS — Maybe the crosstown Cardinals' pregame appearance with the World Series trophy inspired the winless Rams to pull off a shocker of their own, a 31-21 upset of the Saints on Sunday. A few choice words from their star helped, too.
And they also wound up helping the Bucs, who coming off a bye week will play at New Orleans with first place in the NFC South at stake.
Steven Jackson told teammates that there was no way the Rams, 0-6 coming in, were this awful. Then he scored two touchdowns in his first 100-yard game in three seasons, helping St. Louis earn its first win.
At 5-3 the Saints are half a game ahead of the Bucs and Falcons (both 4-3) for first place in the division.
"I think the Cardinals being here was great for the city," Jackson said. "…We came out with a mind-set we were going to fight."
Drew Brees barely kept alive his touchdown pass streak on a meaningless score in the final seconds a week after throwing five in a 62-7 rout of the winless Colts.
This time Brees was intercepted twice, with Darian Stewart's pick and 27-yard return putting the game away with 2:51 to go.
"As you look at the cardinal sins of football, we committed quite a few of those," Brees said. "Obviously, we gave them a lot of momentum."
The Saints average a league-best 35 points, but never got on track against a defense ranked near the bottom of the league. The Rams had a season-high six sacks after entering with 11, three by Chris Long.
"We always thought we had that in us," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "It was a wonderful weekend for St. Louis fans."
Saints pass catchers were bottled up by a secondary minus its top three players, and New Orleans rushed for 56 yards on 20 carries. Saints radio reported that guard Carl Nicks and line coach Aaron Kromer were separated after squabbling near the end of the game.
The Rams trailed by double digits in each of their first six games, and before Sunday had led for only 6:28 all season.
The Saints were scoreless in the first half for the first time since 2007, mustering 94 yards total offense. Watching from the booth while recovering from a knee injury, coach Sean Payton detected a lack of effort.
"They certainly played with more energy than we did," Payton said. "I just thought we looked flat."
The Rams wore throwback jerseys in a nod to their 1999 Super Bowl championship team.
All three Saints losses have come on the road. But they were favored by nearly two touchdowns against a franchise that has been awful on both sides of the ball. Like the Colts a week earlier, the Rams were starting their backup quarterback.
A.J. Feeley made his second straight start for St. Louis in place of Sam Bradford (high left ankle sprain), and threw his first touchdown of the season in a mistake-free outing.
Jackson had 159 yards on 25 carries, including a 32-yard jaunt on fourth and 2 to set up his second touchdown that made the score 24-0 in the third quarter.
Brees threw a touchdown to Lance Moore with six seconds left in the game.
That marked the 35th straight game for Brees with a TD pass — the only longer strings are 47 games by Johnny Unitas and 36 by Brett Favre.
"I could (not) care less, to be honest," Brees said. "That stuff comes when you win, and it means more when you win."
Ravens 30, Cardinals 27
Vikings 24, Panthers 21
Texans 24, Jaguars 14
Giants 20, Dolphins 17
Titans 27, Colts 10
Bills 23, Redskins 0
Lions 45, Broncos 10
Steelers 25, Patriots 17
49ers 20, Browns 10
Bengals 34, Seahawks 12
Eagles 34, Cowboys 7
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