By Alvin Reid
The Sports Xchange
ST. LOUIS—Maybe the good karma from the World Series transferred over to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday afternoon.
The winless Rams shut out the powerful New Orleans offense until midway through the fourth quarter and rode the stellar defensive effort to a 31-21 victory over the Saints.
The Rams returned one of their two interceptions for a touchdown, blocked a punt and continually harassed quarterback Drew Brees while smothering the Saints offense.
Safety Darian Stewart returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown with 2:51 remaining to seal the Rams' first win of the season.
"I just read the play and broke on it. We had to come up with a big play, and I came up big," Stewart said.
First-round draft pick Robert Quinn had his best game as a Ram with a blocked punt and a crucial first-half sack to stall a Saints drive.Chris Long also stood tall with three sacks on a flustered Brees.
Quinn blocked a Thomas Morstead punt with 1:41 left in the first half to set up the Rams at the New Orleans 15-yard line. Quarterback A.J. Feeley connected with Greg Salas for a 12-yard gain to the 3-yard line. Salas fumbled, but an alert Steven Jackson fell on the ball. Jackson scored from 3 yards out on the next play to give the Rams a 10-0 lead.
Jackson finished with 159 yards on 25 carries and added four receptions for 32 yards. He also inspired the team with an emotional pregame speech.
"I told the team that if you have ever been in a fight, if you have ever been punched, you can either run or find the will to keep fighting," Jackson said. "I challenged them as football players. I challenged them as men to find something inside them they didn't know they had. I think you saw that in the fourth quarter."
Brees was intercepted by Josh Gordy on the first play from scrimmage following the kickoff. Feeley capped a seven-play, 38-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown toss to Brandon Lloyd to make it 17-0 at halftime.
Feeley said Lloyd "called his own play" and told the quarterback, "I'm running this." Feeley had 20 completions on 37 attempts for 175 yards and was not intercepted. Lloyd caught six passes for 53 yards and the TD.
The Rams took a 3-0 lead with 8:32 left in the second quarter on a Josh Brown 38-yard field goal.
After holding the Saints and forcing on punt on New Orleans' first drive of the second half, the Rams immediately went back to work on offense. An 11-play, 73-yard drive ended with Jackson's second touchdown of the day on a 3-yard run. The key play of the drive was Jackson's 32-yard run on fourth-and-2 from the Saints' 35-yard line.
Down 24-0, the Saints scored their first points with 1:21 left in the third quarter when Feeley was sacked and fumbled on his own goal line. The ball was recovered by linebacker Jonathan Vilma for a touchdown.
A three-yard Pierre Thomas touchdown run cut the Rams lead to 24-14 with 10 minutes left in the game.
Stewart's interception return pushed the Rams' lead back to 31-14. Brees hit Lance Moore for an 8-yard touchdown with six seconds left in the game to cut into the final margin.
NOTES: Chris Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals tossed the coin before the game, and the Rams won the toss. The baseball team was on hand and was recognized during the first quarter. … Jackson's two touchdowns moved him to fourth on the Rams' all-time TD list. … The Rams were clad in their 1999 Super Bowl champion throwback jerseys. … Saints first-round draft pick Mark Ingram was on the inactive list with an injured heel suffered in the 62-7 blowout of Indianapolis last week. … The Saints activated running back Chris Ivory off the physically unable to perform list and released tight end Tory Humphrey.