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

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

Take 1: The Fake

First off, at least we know Sean Payton has found his mojo. It started last week against Atlanta and continued Sunday against Indianapolis. It's as if he had a moment with himself where he decided that if his team is going to lose, they are going to lose trying to win. And, lo and behold, since he changed his mindset, they haven't lost.

Back to the play. The fake field goal was flawlessly executed and after watching several times, I've come to appreciate just how difficult the play actually was.

It began with Ben Watson who sold his block well enough to force Colt Anderson to go low at Luke McCown for the block. Had he stayed upright, the play would have been dead.

Next, Max Unger, who was an eligible receiver on the play, got just enough Dewey McDonald's arm to spin him around. McDonald recovered quickly but it was a half-second too late as McCown was able to get the ball off.

Finally, McCown's throw was truly impressive. McCown went from crouched down, rose up, rolled to his left and threw with half of his body torqued toward the sideline. Just as he released the ball, McDonald hit his arm.

To think, it was Payton's own impatience on the challenge the play before that allowed him to be in that position to make the call. Sometimes that happens and it really was the spark that sent the Saints to 27 unanswered points.

Take 2: Run Game Rebirth

The run game enjoyed their best effort of the season and it was no coincidence that it came on the week the starting offensive line returned for the first time since week two.

That unit was dominant Sunday and paved the way for the Saints 36 carries for 183 yards.

To highlight this I closely observed Mark Ingram's five biggest runs of the game:

  • 11:56 2nd quarter 20-yard gain, 11 yards before contact
  • 5:37 2nd quarter 11 yard gain, 4 yards before contact
  • 5:02 2nd quarter 44 yard gain, 5 yards before contact
  • 13:23 3rd quarter 35 yard gain, 7 yards before contact
  • 12:51 3rd quarter 17 yard gain, 10 yards before contact

Those five runs resulted in 127 yards, 37 yards were gained before first contact. That's over seven yards a run. We always hear about yards after contact with a running back, but against the Colts the yards BEFORE contact was game-changing.

Take 3: Pass Rush Progress

First things first, masterfully called game by Rob Ryan. He mixed things up and had Andrew Luck uncomfortable all game long.

Secondly, the pass rush proved last week was no fluke, though for the second straight week they were able to play with a sizeable lead.

Cam Jordan played like a man possessed once again. He is truly playing like the player they signed to that hefty contract extension this offseason. He finished with two sacks and caused a third one when he held up Luck to allow John Jenkins and Tyeler Davison to bring him down. He also had two tackles for loss and two batted passes at the line. Unlike last week, both of his sacks came with him playing on the outside.

Ryan also dialed up some well-timed blitzes. In all, they blitzed nine times. Luck 3-6 101 yards and a touchdown off the broken play where Delvin Breaux slipped. He also scrambled once for nine yards and was sacked twice.

Take 4: Avoiding Disaster

Going back to my take above about Payton, for whatever it always feels like when Payton is aggressive, the bounces also seem to go the Saints' way.

There were three disastrous turnovers they avoided Sunday. Drew Brees was picked off in the first quarter. Mark Ingram fumbled in the third quarter that was correctly overturned by replay. Brandin Cooks fumbled at the Saints own 24-yard line in the fourth quarter with the score 27-14. Fortunately, Josh Hill was there to recover the ball.

If the Saints were to lose any of those turnovers, the game could have changed in the Colts' favor.

Take 5: Unsung Heroes

- Kyle Wilson- With Damian Swann and Keenan Lewis both out, I was very concerned about the Saints' secondary. But they stepped up in a big way. Wilson was the most unlikely hero of the group but he came up huge with a fumble recovery on special teams and an interception just before halftime that crushed any chance of the Colts scoring points. He also had a nice tackle of Philip Dorsett that stopped the Colts short on a third down. On the Colts' first possession on third down he jammed a wide receiver at the line of scrimmage that caused Luck to double-clutch and get sacked.

- Michael Hoomanawanui- It's safe to say this was the best game Hooman has played since joining the Saints a few weeks ago. The Saints elected not to go with a fullback Sunday and Hooman's versatility was a big reason why. He lined up as the fullback seven times and aided in the run game with solid blocking. He also caught five passes for 31 yards and his first touchdown.

Other Observations:

  • It worked in the Saints’ favor but that was one of the best onside kicks I’ve ever seen. Colt Anderson actually could’ve had the ball off of Donte Moncrief’s tip.
  • Exceptional punting by Thomas Morstead and Pat McAfee Sunday.
  • The game-clinching back shoulder throw to Marques Colston was simply a testament to ten years of chemistry between the greatest duo in Saints history. Brees saw the look immediately and was going to Colston the whole way. He put the ball up before Colston turned his head and perfectly placed the ball. Colston knew exactly when to turn and exactly where to put his hands. It was perfectly timed and perfectly executed. Colston even went to the ground just a couple of feet before going out of bounds.
  • I still get the feeling that the Saints haven’t quite found the rhythm they are looking for with Brandin Cooks. I know his stats were good: 6 catches, 81 yards. But he was also targeted 13 times in the game. It feels like they’re still experimenting with what works best with Cooks. For the record, he ran a wide receiver screen, three crossing routes, a slant/pick and a go route on his six catches. His go route and pick route were the only ones that resulted in first downs.
  • The Saints ran 83 plays to the Colts’ 61. That’s by far the biggest disparity they’ve had all season.
  • For the first time all season, the Saints ran the majority of their plays from the 12 personnel package of one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers.