AFR: Five takes from the tape, Saints vs. Cowboys - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

AFR: Five takes from the tape, Saints vs. Cowboys

(Source: Mark LaGrange) Sean Payton saw Drew Brees win a game mentally for Saints vs. Cowboys (Source: Mark LaGrange) Sean Payton saw Drew Brees win a game mentally for Saints vs. Cowboys

Take 1: Brees back but not 100%

No he isn’t 100% but what we did see Sunday that even if Drew Brees is limited, he is capable of beating a team with his mind.  

Physically, the first thing I noticed during his pre-game warmups was that Brees had shortened his throwing motion. The wind-up was a lot more compact; NBC even did a graphic on this as well. The shoulder didn’t allow him to put as much velocity on throws outside the numbers. I counted four throws near the sideline where it appeared he had to use an excessive hip turn to get the ball to his receivers.

However, despite his physical limitations, Brees saved his best throw when it mattered most. On the final drive of regulation, with no timeouts, Brees fired a dart to Brandon Coleman for thirty yards to set up what should have been the game-winning field goal.

Take 2: CJ Spiller the homerun hitter

When I look for the player the Saints can turn to for big plays, it starts and stops with C.J. Spiller.
The Saints desperately missed a guy that can take a 16-yard wheel route, make one guy miss and sprint eighty yards to the end zone. It’s always been such a major part of this offense.

I wonder if Spiller’s versatility will be used even more in this offense for other reasons. Spiller can legitimately line up in the slot and get a favorable matchup or get a great cover guy which would allow Brandin Cooks to get better matchups in one-on-one. The only way the Saints could possibly regain the explosiveness they once had is by getting Spiller on the field.

By the way, he made that impact on the game in just 21 snaps. Meaning he was only in on 29% of the Saints’ offensive plays.

Take 3: Steady Snead

From training camp long shot to the most trusted wide receiver on the team, that’s what Willie Snead has become a quarter of the way through the season. Bottom line, Snead is a player that is always in the right spot and has earned the trust of Drew Brees. His superb route-running skills allow him to create separation despite not being a blazing fast guy.

Snead finished with six catches for 89 yards. Five of those six resulted in a first down. The one that didn’t ended up one yard shy. He also converted two of the Saints’ six third down conversions. For the season, Snead has 16 receptions with 11 first downs and one touchdown. He also leads the team in receiving yards.

Take 4: Breaux Battles

Yes, he committed some costly penalties and he has to clean that up. But overall, I thought Delvin Breaux played very well Sunday night against the Cowboys.

First off, he had a very active night. He was targeted ten times by Cowboys’ quarterback Brandon Weeden. Those ten plays resulted in two receptions (one he was clearly picked by Jason Witten), 41 yards and a touchdown. He was flagged twice for defensive holding (questionable) and an awful pass interference penalty. The other six plays were incomplete passes.

Is that a perfect stat line? No. But it is a stat line for a player that never stopped competing all night and won more one-on-one battles than he lost.

In saying that, I think the next step in Breaux’s evolution is finding the ball. He clearly can smother wide receivers but his ball awareness can improve. There have been a couple of opportunities this season, including one Sunday, where he could have intercepted the ball. This team as a whole can desperately use those game-changing plays.

Take 5: Rookie Resurgence

The Saints plethora of rookies on defense are starting to come of age.

I said last week Stephone Anthony has a boom-or-bust quality to him. On Sunday, he was booming. In fact, he played his best game to date. He finished with seven tackles, one sack and one tackle for loss. He also nearly caused a game-changing fumble when he knocked the ball out of Julius Randle’s hand at the goal line. Unfortunately for Anthony, the ball had barely crossed the plane. Anthony has the potential to be a great linebacker for years to come, he just has to work on his consistency.

Hau’Oli Kikaha has been the most impressive rookie to date. He finished with a team-leading eight tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss. I thought Chris Collinsworth was dead-on when he said he isn’t sure Kikaha knows exactly what he is doing, especially in pass coverage, but his motor never stops running. Kikaha leads the team with three sacks and every single one of them came because tries harder than anyone on the field.

With the trade of Akiem Hicks, all eyes were on Bobby Richardson. And he made the most of it. Richardson was relentless along the defensive line and finished with two tackles for loss. None were bigger than his third down stop midway through the fourth quarter stop on third and one when he tackled Christine Michel for a stop to force a punt.

In limited snaps, Tyeler Davison was very effective. He finished with four tackles and a sack. The sack was quintessential Davison who basically collapsed the pocket and knocked his man back into Weeden, forcing the sack.

One rookie who did not perform Sunday was cornerback Damian Swann who was beat four times in pass coverage.

Counting Breaux to this group, that’s six rookies being counted on in this defense. One quarter of the way through the season, it feels like they starting to find their way.

Other Observations

  • The Saints ran out of their 12 personnel (2 TE’s, 2 WR’s) more this game than any other.
  • One number that doesn’t lie: Saints are 27-0 when they don’t turn the ball over.
  • Another rookie who played his best game Sunday was Andrus Peat. Peat is still the ‘tackle eligible’ and was very effective in run blocking. On back-to-back plays in the fourth quarter he leveled his defender to spring Mark Ingram for gains of 15 and 9 yards. The 9-yarder was erroneously overturned. It should have been a touchdown.
  • Loved the play design on the Saints’ first touchdown from Brees to Josh Hill. I’ve never seen Brees handle the ball like that in a zone read look.
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