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Saints roll past Rams with 31-13 win…

Per USA Today:

If current form holds, the New Orleans Saints could be seeing the St. Louis Rams again — in St. Louis in a potential wild-card showdown.Should that happen, the streaking Saints hope the Rams see flashbacks of Sunday’s 31-13 rout of St. Louis inside the Louisiana Superdome. New Orleans jumped out to a 14-0 start as quarterback Drew Brees touchdown passes to receiver Marques Colston on the team’s first two possessions.

This time last year, the Saints were 13-0 until suffering a loss against Dallas that compelled coach Sean Payton to take the opportunity to rest several key starters in their final two games, a strategy that paid off in the franchise’s transcendent Super Bowl XLIV breakthrough.

There’s no such luxury this time. The 10-3 Saints don’t control their own destiny and are in chase mode. They’re looking up at the 11-2 Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South and must win out, including beating the Falcons in a Dec. 27 Monday night showdown inside the Georgia Dome just to give themselves a chance to wrest the division title from the Falcons, who beat New Orleans in Week 3.

If the season ended today, the Saints would be the NFC’s fifth seed forced to play a wildcard round game against St. Louis, currently the NFC fourth seed.

“Certainly, any time you can go out and win decisively that makes you feel good about your team,” said Brees, who threw for three touchdowns. “Last year we were the No. 1 seed and everybody was chasing us.

“Now there’s the Falcons and a couple of other teams that stand in our way as far as getting a high seed for the playoff run. When you look in our division, Tampa and Atlanta are sitting right there.

Our last three games are going to mean a lot. We just want to keep plugging.”

Here’s a scary thought for the rest of the NFC postseason field.

Brees and the Saints, winners of six consecutive games, are healthier, deeper and hotter than they’ve been at any time this roller-coaster season.

They’ve scored 30 points or more in five consecutive games, winning six straight.

“We’d like to keep that going,” Brees said. “It was a matter of finding our rhythm a little bit. Having those injuries early on, we were trying to get rolling. It’s clicking right now.

“When you talk about our stable of running backs, it gives us the ability to mix and match our formations. The run game has been really good over the last few weeks and big plays are starting to happen.”

It helps that the Saints got last year’s leading rusher Pierre Thomas back for the first time since Thomas suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 3.

Thomas contributed 39 rushing yards on 12 carries and caught four passes for 29 yards while receiver Lance Moore added a 31-yard third-quarter touchdown catch.

Second-year safety Malcolm Jenkins gave his own flashback performance — to 2009 Defensive Player of the Year candidate Darren Sharper who had nine interceptions last season, returning three for touchdowns. Jenkins jumped rookie quarterback Sam Bradford’s second-quarter pass intended for Brandon Gibson and raced 96 yards for the first touchdown of his career.

Jenkins added a second pick of Bradford, who scored the lone St. Louis touchdown on a fourth-quarter 1-yard sneak.

The 6-7 Rams were led by Jackson’s 96 yards on 16 carries and Bradford’s 231 yards on 18 of 32 passing against a blitzing Saints defense.

“The ball seems to find him,” coach Sean Payton said of Jenkins, who replaced a rehabbing Sharper in training camp and hasn’t yielded since. “He’s smart. He has good ball skills. He’s tough. And he’s really been playing well this season.”

Gregg Williams‘ ninth-ranked defense held Bradford and coach Steve Spagnuolo’s Rams to just 1-of-11 third-down conversion attempts.

Brees has thrown an interception in nine straight games and has 18 on the season compared to 28 touchdowns.

“I’m very frustrated to have a really good day and yet it’s marred by a few interceptions.

It’s been uncharacteristic of me and I guess that’s the frustrating part,” Brees said. “I’m not worried about it. But I’m worried about it.

“In other words, I’m not going to go into a shell. I’m not going to over-analyze. I’m not going to become conservative.

“It’s something that needs to be fixed. I feel like I’m playing good football and yet there’s those two plays a game for whatever reason, ‘I wish I had that back.”‘

Colston, a seventh-round pick out of Hofstra five years ago, had five catches for 46 yards to give him a team-best 76 receptions for 921 yards, leaving him just short of his fourth 1,000-yard receiving season.

“Marques is one of those guys who quietly goes about his business,” Brees said. “There’s no celebrations, no ‘Throw me the ball.’

“He’s been one of the most consistent receivers the last five years. I love his personality. You see his inner fire.”

This time, the Saints showed their inner killer instinct missing in close wins eked out against Dallas on Thanksgiving Day and against Cincinnati last Sunday.

The Saints travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens in Week 15, where they must keep winning in order to give themselves a tiebreaker advantage should they win out and Atlanta stumbles in their remaining games.

“We’re a work in progress,” Payton said. “It wasn’t always perfect. But it was a good team we played.”

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