NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Take one: Bounce Back victory
Most reasonable minds knew that last week’s effort against Atlanta was not a sign of deep trouble, but merely an aberration to an otherwise successful season. More importantly, the Saints understood that and quickly proved it by beating Tampa Bay in convincing fashion on Sunday. They looked deliberate in their plan and execution. All week they had a businesslike tone; not a whole needed to be said. The Saints knew the nasty taste in their mouths from their lopsided loss to the Falcons wouldn’t fully go away until they played on Sunday. It was evident early on the Saints were the better team, and they played that way all game long.
Take Two: Offensive efficiency
Right out of the gate, the Saints offense looked determined to be the Saints offense everyone knows. Their first four drives resulted in four scores: two field goals and two touchdowns. The Drew Brees looked clean and efficient going 28/35 with three touchdowns. Michael Thomas was Michael Thomas with eight catches, 114 yards and a touchdown. The Saints were even able to run the ball effectively against the league’s top-ranked rush defense. But the stat that really jumped out was time of possession. The Saints closed the first with a 21-9 edge in time of possession and finished with a 37-23 edge in the game.
Take three: Secondary success
There was a fear all week about the Saints not having Marshon Lattimore available against a pretty formidable duo of wide receivers. That worry was quickly squashed as P.J. Williams and Eli Apple stepped up in Lattimore’s absence. It also helped that Jameis Winston, the NFL’s leader in interceptions thrown, was the quarterback on the other end. Winston is known for making a lot of risky throws and the Saints were there all game to take advantage. They picked Winston off four times. The first one by DeMario Davis set up the Saints’ first touchdown. Vonn Bell recorded his first career interception right before halftime. Marcus Williams took advantage of an overthrow and brought his back for a touchdown, while PJ Williams prevented a late Bucs touchdown with a pick in the end zone.
It was quite an effort by the Saints secondary without their best player. It was also an indictment on Winston, who’s knack for big mistakes have officially overtaken his ability to make big plays. I happened to catch the Tampa FOX affiliate’s postgame coverage and couldn’t believe the nonchalant, shoulder shrug type of reaction to such a horrific stat line for Winston. But then I realized, they’ve seen this for five years now and accepted this is who he will always be.
Take Four: Easton fits in
The Saints elected to start Nick Easton Sunday at left guard in place of Andrus Peat and used Will Clapp as the extra tackle in their ‘jumbo package.’ The best thing about Easton’s day was that his name was never called. He along with the other lineman kept Drew Brees upright all game long and did not allow a sack. Easton lost the center battle to Erik McCoy early in camp and was having trouble even being active on gamedays. He had been viewed as a disappointment, but perhaps with Peat out he’ll get the opportunity to redeem himself over the next couple of weeks.
Take Five: Other Observations
- Has Drew Brees ever been stopped on the leap? I think he’s got a hundred percent conversion rate.
- Alvin Kamara is officially back. Sunday he has 23 touches, 16 of those came in the first half. He should have had a touchdown, but it was called back due to a holding call on Jared Cook.
- Michael Thomas has 94 catches in ten games. I repeat, Michael Thomas has 94 catches in ten games.
- Speaking of Cook, how about that touchdown catch!? When Brees let it go, it looked like Cook was well covered, but the 6’5 tight end went up and grabbed it then absorbed the hit when he landed on the ground. The play felt like a turning point in the Brees-Cook connection. Brees had full trust in his guy that he would be where he needed to be; all he had to do was put it up to him. Earlier in the game, Cook caught a slant and went for thirty yards. The chemistry between Cook and Brees is growing and hopefully will become a force down the stretch.
- Linebacker Kiko Alonso gets better every week in this defense. His aggression really jumps out. Alonso doesn’t waste time overthinking anything, the second he reads a play he accelerates to make a play.
- Sean Payton said after the game that losing Josh Hill was like ‘losing your front door.’ That’s why he spent so much time on the bench with a whiteboard going through plays with Kamara and Brees. Hill is one of those guys who’s value truly doesn’t show up on the stat sheet; his exit clearly had a bigger impact on the game than we realized.
- Bruce Arians challenged an offensive pass interference and lost, but on the first drive of the game when Kamara appeared to fumble the ball, he didn’t challenge the ruling that Kamara fumbled the ball out of bounds. Judging by the replays I saw, he may have had a better chance at winning that one.
- Congratulations to Ted Ginn Jr. for reaching 400 receptions for his career.
- Ill-timed penalties were the one blemish to a pretty complete victory for Saints.