Rapid Reaction: New Orleans Saints

ST. LOUIS -- A few thoughts on the New Orleans Saints' 27-16 loss to the St. Louis Rams, which moved them to 10-4 on the season.

What it means: Yikes. This was probably the Saints' most disturbing loss of the season -- despite their efforts to make it close in the fourth quarter. The Saints' dreadful start (St. Louis led 27-3 through three quarters) was even more surprising than the blowout loss at Seattle two weeks ago. And it further added to the notion that they can't win consistently on the road -- something they will now have to do next week at Carolina.

Drew Brees struggled with two first-quarter interceptions. The pass protection was as bad as it's been all season. The tackling was poor on defense. And kicker Garrett Hartley missed two field goals. The good news is that the Saints can still clinch the NFC South title and the No. 2 seed in the NFC by winning at Carolina next week. But they will obviously have to prove they can play vastly better on the road.

Split personality: The Saints bristle at the notion that they struggle away from home. But they've done little to prove that theory wrong this year. Although they entered Sunday with the best road record in the NFL since 2009 (24-14), they're now 3-4 on the road this year. At home, they've outscored opponents 230-108. On the road they've been outscored 162-129.

Stock watch: Left tackle Charles Brown was removed during the third quarter after being repeatedly burned by Rams end Robert Quinn (two sacks, a forced fumble, a hit that forced an interception and two penalties). Right tackle Zach Strief moved over to the left side, and backup Bryce Harris came in at right tackle. Brown didn't appear to be injured on the sideline.

Brown has been decent in his first year as the Saints' starter. He's had a few miscues, but never a performance like this. It will be interesting to see if the Saints turn back to him next week.

Up next: Next week's game at Carolina (10-4) obviously looms as the most important game of the year. If the Saints win, they're the No. 2 seed in the NFC. If they lose, they need to count on help in Week 17. Two good omens for the Saints -- they just clobbered Carolina last week (though it was at home in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome) and the Saints haven't lost back-to-back games under Sean Payton since 2009.