Andy Dalton passed for three touchdowns, Mathew Stafford left the field to be evaluated for a concussion in the second half and the New Orleans Saints defeated the reeling Los Angeles Rams 27-20 on Sunday.
Stafford’s departure from the game came two days after he’d been cleared to return from the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Stafford was effective in the first half, after which the Rams led 14-10, and he left the game having completed 11 of 18 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns, including a 62-yarder to Tutu Atwell.
He appeared to hit his head on the Superdome turf during a third-quarter possession and was subsequently sacked by blitzing linebacker Demario Davis and defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon to end the last drive he played before walking down the tunnel toward the locker room.
He was replaced by Bryce Perkins, who led the Rams to a field goal on his first series, but struggled thereafter and was sacked twice to stall his third series late in the fourth quarter, all but sealing the game’s result.
The defending champion Rams (3-7), who’ve now lost four straight, didn’t pull within a touchdown until Matt Gay’s 58-yard field goal with 6 seconds remaining and the Saints recovered a subsequent onside kick.
Dalton’s performance validated a decision by the Saints (4-7) to stick with him after the club’s worst offensive performances of the season during a two-game skid that spanned Weeks 9 and 10. Jameis Winston, who has not played since Week 3, when he was struggling with back and ankle injuries, has said he’s ready and wanting to return.
Dalton completed 21 of 25 passes for 260 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown pass deep down the middle of the field to Chris Olave to make it 24-14 late in the third quarter.
Former LSU star and Louisiana native Jarvis Landry caught his first touchdown pass as a Saint when Dalton found him over the middle from 7 yards to put the Saints in front for good at 17-14 early in the third quarter.
The Rams had an early 7-3 lead when Stafford spotted Atwell in one-on-one coverage with Chris Harris Jr. and dropped a deep pass into the receiver’s arms along the left sideline.
New Orleans went back in front on Dalton’s 8-yard pass to tight end Juwan Johnson before Stafford hit Allen Robinson from 6 yards at the end of the first half to make it 14-10.
Rams: In addition to Stafford, left tackle Ty Nsekhe needed help off the field in the second quarter with an apparent leg injury. Defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson left in the first half with a knee injury.
Saints: Payton Turner was carted off in the second quarter with an apparent left leg injury, leaving New Orleans without three defensive ends (Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport were ruled out on Friday).
Rams: At Kansas City on Nov. 27.
Saints: At San Francisco on Nov. 27.