NFL Week 9: The last undefeated team falls

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The Los Angeles Rams (8-1) had more or less cruised to 8-0 through the first half of their schedule, boasting a historically great offense that opposing defenses could not dream of slowing down. But, in New Orleans, they met their match late Sunday afternoon in a clash of the two NFC titans.

Against most of the NFL, the 35 points that the Rams’ offense manufactured would have been more than enough to secure a victory. The Saints (7-1), however, at home in the Superdome, created a much different story.

Saints running back Alvin Kamara scored three total touchdowns (two rush, one receiving) and quarterback Drew Brees was able to expose what has emerged as, for the Rams, a concerning trend of defense miscommunications and sloppiness in the secondary. Brees and the New Orleans offense went up and down the field at will, scoring 45 points and producing almost 500 yards.

The Saints offensive line led the rushing attack and kept Brees clean all day. It looks like a top-five unit in the league that can help carry a Super Bowl champion.

We always knew the Saints defense was awful (save for defensive end Cam Jordan and cornerback Marshon Lattimore). But it just may be that, in today’s NFL, there are no good defenses.

The Rams entered the season with a revamped secondary, but as of yet, it has not lived up to the hype. Cornerback Marcus Peters has been wildly inconsistent all year, and today was no different. He and a couple of other defensive backs were not completely ready pre-snap, and the duo of Brees and star wideout Michael Thomas burned Peters for a 72-yard touchdown on a pivotal third down late in the fourth that pushed the Saints’ lead to 10.

The sky is nowhere near falling for the Rams, but this game was the chance for them to essentially lock up home field throughout the NFC playoffs. The New Orleans defense was able to keep a lid on the Rams offense for just long enough, and now the Saints will certainly challenge for the first seed.

Meanwhile, in the AFC, the conference’s top four teams all played sharp games and won handily.

In Baltimore, the Steelers (5-2-1) dropped the Ravens to five losses to further tighten their grip on the AFC North crown in a 23-16 win. They have been the best team in the division in the last month but will be tested in the upcoming weeks with tough matchups against the Panthers, Saints, Patriots and Chargers.

The first AFC win in Seattle since 2011 belongs to the Chargers (6-2) after their 25-17 win over the Seahawks. A great first half led by the rushing attack of running back Melvin Gordon was overshadowed by a poor second half that gave Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson a chance to tie the game in the waning seconds. But there’s a reason why an AFC team hasn’t won in Seattle in seven years, so you can’t complain about Los Angeles getting a tough win and looking like it is finally beginning to put it together.

The Patriots (7-2) and the Chiefs (8-1) capitalized on some easier opponents, as the race continues for the AFC’s first seed. New England finished off the Green Bay Packers (3-4-1) at home, 31-17.

Even though the scoreboard was close at times, the Pats never lost control of the game and were clearly the better team. Green Bay, meanwhile, looks to be in quite some trouble, still having to travel to Seattle, Minnesota and Chicago in the back half of their schedule.

In Cleveland, the Chiefs and their explosive offense continued their tour over the U.S., terrorizing defense coordinators. With 37-21 as the final score, the game had moments when the Kansas City defense looked barely passable against Browns’ rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Week 10 doesn’t look like it will bring much suspense. Looking forward, the Week 11 Chiefs-Rams matchup will have major playoff implications.

Dev Navani writes for Bear Bytes, The Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact him at [email protected].