It turns out that I’ve been right every game this season so far in the outcome, but way off on the scores. I’ll take those W’s any way they come though. Who could’ve possibly predicted the shootout with the Texans, the Brees injury, the trouncing of Seattle in CenturyLink Field, or even the defensive stand against Dallas?? The Saints are now at 3-1, but not quite sitting pretty on top of the division with Tampa and Carolina only one game behind. But we’ll get to that. What’s most important is enjoying the now, because in the NFL, happiness and sadness are an inch apart every week in a season. So let’s enjoy how much Dallas talked shit, how ESPN falsely reported that the Dome would be 51% Cowgirl fans, and how our defense put on a performance that shut down an overrated offense and shut up the entire national sports media. The sun is out, let’s bask in the warmth, and then cool off poolside with some Mojitos before we dive in. Let’s go “World’s Team”!!
That was easily the most exciting 12-10 football game I’ve seen in years, and I’m not just saying that because the Saints won and I’m a Saints fan (I mean, that doesn’t hurt either). The defense was on fire all day, stuffing the Dallas offense play after play. No Cowboy had more than 50 yards receiving nor rushing. Who were the team leaders? Amari Cooper? 48 yards receiving. Ezekiel Elliott? 35 yards rushing. The Saints defense had 3 total turnovers. The return of Sheldon Rankins combined with the rest of the front 7 just crushed Dallas for 4 quarters. Penalties pushed them more successfully down the field than actual plays did. The Saints are now 74-8 in the Sean Payton era when a team scores 20 or less points. That’s a great stat if this New Orleans defense continues this kind of play.
The offense continues to be a concern however. On the plus side, they were able to have long drives that ate up a lot of clock, but on the downside, they only mustered 4 field goals all day. This was the first win for the New Orleans Saints without a touchdown in 21 years. Chew on that for a second. Just in the Sean Payton era there’s only been 4 games without a touchdown in general. But each week without Drew so far, they have been able to figure out how to win on the strength of their special teams and defense.
The penalties and playmakers continue to be a problem for this offense. 9 penalties for 80 yards is absurd. About half can be chalked up for poor officiating, which is now endemic around the league. But the Saints certainly shot themselves in the foot as well. And it’s not entirely anyone’s fault. Bridgewater and the O line are still trying to get on the same page. Things change a lot with different QBs under center. And if it weren’t for Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, we’d be in even deeper shit. I can’t fault Teddy for that interception. Ted Ginn looked like the Ted Ginn the Panthers were happy to part ways with after 2016 Ted Ginn. And with Tre’quan Smith down, Keith Kirkwood out for the season, and Jared Cook being a Coby Fleener of a disappointment thus far, we’re back to where we were last season begging for any third person to step up. Kamara and Thomas combined for almost 70% of the offense last Sunday.
Now as bad as all of that sounds offensively, we still managed to outperform the Cowgirls in almost every statistical team category. Total yards? Check. Turnover battle? Check. Time of possession? Check. First downs? Check. We had more penalties and less success in the red zone, however. But if our special teams and defense plays every week like they did on Sunday, I’m not sure anyone can beat us even with offensive struggles.
So what if we had a lot of penalties to again stall drives, and only Thomas and Kamara were sharing the workload? The first thing is more easily fixable under the microscope. Expect this whole week to be filled with practice drills to get the offensive line and Bridgewater in better sync with one another and have better communication. I will be surprised if the offensive line gets penalized as much next Sunday at home against Tampa, unless of course the referees decide to not know their own rulebook again.
Alvin and Michael. Man oh man please stay healthy because the dropoff behind you is scary as shit. I’ve read and listened to a lot of water cooler talk about what the Saints need to do to fix the offense. Until Tre’quan comes back, I think the best answer is to spread it around to our “back ups”. We already saw a little bit of it last week. Josh Hill got a lot more attention than normal. Deonte Harris (I think I need his jersey) got involved in the offense for a first down. Moving forward, I say get Zach Line, Latavius Murray, hell, Dwayne Washington even, call up Emmanuel Butler, resign Dez Bryant, SOMETHING!! Just stop playing fucking Austin Carr. Are defenses even covering him?? I’m not ready to give up on Jared Cook and Lil’Jordan Humphrey yet though. They basically have this next game before they’ve lost me for the season.
Fun Alvin Kamara stat: So the media were quick to throw out that Christian McCaffrey had 10 broken tackles last Sunday in their own unlikely win against the Texans. Alvin Kamara had 9 broken tackles against the Cowgirls, and he has 23 broken tackles on the season so far, which is leading the league. How about that, Good Morning Football?!?!
When it came to the defense, last Sunday was like going back in time to the days of the Dome Patrol. It was a complete and utter shutdown all 4 quarters. It was more exhilerating than a summer blockbuster, and more satisfying than a snowball on a 100 degree day. For all of Sunday night, Dallas’ offense looked like it kept running into a brick wall. Marshon Lattimore’s ears must’ve been burning, because he finally stepped up and made Amari Cooper an afterthought. Zeke Elliott got spanked like child and had a career worst day. And how about this Saints run defense?!?!? They continue to amaze. They are now on a 30 game streak without allowing a 100 yard rusher. Unbelievable. Dak (“the best quarterback in football” says Dallas) was pressured all day and hit several times as he threw the ball. He threw 22-33, 223 yards, and an interception. Even though he was ultimately sacked only one time, the evening took its toll finally (with the help of a well timed blitz by Chauncey Gardner-Johnson) when he threw up a desparation throw early and Marcus Williams caught it to seal the game. That is how a well executed, overachieving defense should finish a game like that.
Deonte Harris continues to shine, and the combination of his returns and Morestead’s punts have really shifted field position in our favor for 2 weeks now. J.T. Grey has shown why the Saints were willing to part with Chris Banjo, because he has been a shutdown gunner on mostly punts since almost all of Lutz’s kicks have been unreturnable bombs into enemy endzones and beyond. Wil Lutz was 4-4 and continues to be one of the best kickers in the league, by the by. I know we’re only 4 games in, but this might be the best special teams unit of the entire Sean Payton era. I haven’t been this excited about special teams since maybe Reggie Bush in 2006 or maybe even the “Beerman”, Michael Lewis. And this group is eons ahead of those squads.
And then the shit talking. All week Cowgirls fans could not shut up about what Dallas was gonna do. DeMarcus Lawrence was the most vocal player, and the fans loved it. ESPN put out what ended up a bogus report that the Super Dome would be a bit more than half Dallas fans. I love to do my shit talking AFTER victories, but that’s just me I guess. Lawrence got to look like an ass after the loss, the fans turned into crybabies, and the Dome rocked loud and proud full of the Who Dat Nation. There’s no offical number, but in most reports it wasn’t even 25 %.
I could talk about Dallas’ failures all day everyday, but let’s look ahead to Tampa in the Dome. The Bucs have been an interesting team in that they’ve been horrendously inconsistent, so it’s hard to predict which team that will show up. After their wild finish in L.A., where they put up 55 points on the Rams while giving up 40 points (a lot of that game was the Rams screwing themselves over and over), one would think that this could be a confidence game for the Saints’ offense. Defensively, we are arguably the best team they will have faced yet this season. We have home field advantage again. What could go wrong?
Can Lattimore shut down Mike Evans? Can Apple shut down Chris Godwin? Can the rush defense continue to omit opponents’ run games from the field? Can Teddy Two Gloves finally have a big game? Can someone not named Kamara or Thomas step up for a big game? This game feels a lot more like Seattle than Dallas defensively. It’s a division rival, we have struggled against them in recent years, and I question if the team will rise to the challenge if they go into this game underestimating the Bucs.
For the offense, the run game needs to be patient, but Teddy should be able to have success in the air because their secondary has been a disaster. It’s critical that the offensive line not get penalties like they have been. New Orleans can’t afford to have drives stall out in this game.
Defensively, Dallas didn’t have Gallop last week and Jason Whitten is like a mummy that plays football. So Cooper was all they had (kind of like us and Thomas). Tampa has Evans and Godwin (who is actually leading the team in receptions, yardage, and touchdowns), Howard has been a decent receiving TE, but even their backup running back and tight end have been decent contributors. The hardest stats to look at are Winston’s. He’s having a pretty good year so far overall, but he does have 5 interceptions already. The Saints are gonna have a lot of work to do, but they are equipped to handle this challenge. Get in Winston’s head early and often, and he’ll turn back into regular Jameis. Turnovers are key because Tampa will move the ball on them.
Special Teams once again becomes our X factor. I think this game will be close like the Dallas game, but with a higher score. If Tre’quan plays, it will likely be limited. I think it’s gonna be Thomas, Kamara, and a little Cook and Ginn looking better. The Saints should be able to pull this off with the help of the 12th man as well, but it could be an ugly game.
Saints 24 – Buccaneers 20
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