Eric Dickerson, closing on O.J. Simpson's season rushing record, ran for 149 yards as the Los Angeles Rams built an early lead on the way to a 34-21 victory over the New Orleans Saints today.

Dickerson, who led the NFL in rushing as a rookie last season, joined Simpson and Earl Campbell as the only NFL runners to gain 100 yards 11 times in a season.

On 33 carries, he brought his season total to 1,781 with two games remaining. Simpson set the record of 2,003 yards 11 years ago.

The Rams stay in contention for an NFC wild-card playoff spot at 9-5. The loss ended postseason hopes for the Saints (6-8) and ensured their 18th straight season without a winning record.

Los Angeles took a 24-0 lead, then withstood a Saints rally led by quarterback Dave Wilson, who replaced Richard Todd in the second period.

Wilson's third touchdown pass of the game, an eight-yarder to Eugene Goodlow with 9:06 remaining, cut the Rams' lead to 27-21.

But less than two minutes later, a 34-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Kemp to Henry Ellard put the Rams back in control.

LeRoy Irvin's 51-yard return after intercepting Todd five minutes into the game put Los Angeles ahead to stay.

Dickerson scored on a seven-yard run later in the first period, then Kemp threw a 16-yard scoring pass to Ellard. Mike Lansford's 25-yard field goal made it 24-0 with 4:49 gone in the second period.

Wilson led the Saints on an 80-yard drive on his first series, the touchdown coming on a 14-yard pass to Lindsay Scott. Lansford's 30-yard field goal put Los Angeles ahead, 27-7, early in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Wilson threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Tyrone Young and the scoring pass to Goodlow.