NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Take one: Keeping the crown
Their win over Atlanta was not perfect. But in the NFL, nothing ever is. It’s an imperfect game played by imperfect people. Yet through that imperfection, the Saints have been able to maintain remarkable consistency. Nowhere is that more evident than winning the NFC South title for the third year in a row. Winning the division is the not the main goal, but it is the first one. Now, the Saints are on to the next ones ahead of them.
Still in the context of this organization, capturing a division title is not just any ole’ accomplishment. They’ve become incredibly common under Sean Payton. They’ve had six since he took over in 2006.
But in the 40 years of existence before Payton got there, the franchise won a grand total of two of them. Sometimes it’s important to pause and realize just how far this organization has come. Once viewed as a laughingstock, the Saints have now become a model for the rest of the league in consistency.
Take Two: Taysom takeover
Taysom Hill was an absolute beast Thursday night. There’s no other way to put it. He blocked a punt to start the game that set up the team’s first touchdown. A touchdown that he scored when he took a pop/shovel pass from Drew Brees and ran it into the end zone.
In the second quarter, the Saints ran a quarterback power play, where they motioned out Alvin Kamara. This confused the Falcons, and left them exposed in the box. Hill hit the hole created by Larry Warford and Ryan Ramczyk and looked like he was shot out of a cannon when he got to the second level as he outran Atlanta’s defense to the end zone untouched.
Hill also had a catch in the flat early for a first down, a quarterback sweep, and a end around pass that didn’t connect.
In the end, the guy is just a rare breed and has made more unique plays than any Saints player I can ever recall.
Take Three: constant pressure
Cam Jordan had four sacks. Marcus Davenport had two. Trey Hendrickson had one. So did Sheldon Rankins and Demario Davis.
In all, the Saints sacked Matt Ryan nine times. When they didn’t sack Ryan, they hit him 13 other times. They forced the Falcons to be one-dimensional, and when they did, they attacked early and often.
Overall, it was a banner night for the Saints defensive line.
Take Four: Penalties still a problem
Complaining about officials doesn’t change the fact that the Saints truly have a penalty problem. They were flagged for over 100 yards yet again. On Thursday, it was nine infractions for 121 yards. In the first half, Marshon Lattimore was called for a foolish unsportsmanlike penalty. Eli Apple was hit for two obvious pass interference penalties. The second one set up the Falcons first touchdown. They lead the league in illegal hands to the face calls. A block in the back negated a big Deonte Harris return. This is sloppy play, and a alarming lack of discipline for a Sean Payton-coached team.
They were able to overcome it against the Falcons, but some of those flags kept the game closer than it had to be. The Saints know that’s not a consistent recipe for success.
Take Five: other observations
- Still trying to figure out how the Saints could not recover back-to-back onside kicks, made the game more dramatic than it had to be. The “hands team” looked completely lost. Players seemed confused in what their assignments were. Plus, the effort to fight for the loose ball seemed lackluster at best. Sean Payton called the onside kick situation “embarrassing.”
- There were crucial drops by Saints pass catchers Thursday. Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara each had one ‚while Jared Cook had two. Thomas’s and Kamara’s would’ve been first downs. Cook’s first drop was a sure touchdown; his second could’ve been one when Brees perfectly placed a ball to him on a go-route.
- If not for the two big drops, Cook would’ve had another big night. He had catches of 16, 29 and 40 yards. He’s turning into a big-play option for Drew Brees.
- Saints must’ve put some voodoo on opposing kickers. In the last two weeks, they’ve missed a combined two field goals and three extra points.
- Shy Tuttle’s stiff arm on Matt Ryan during his interception return had the whole press box yelling ‘ohhhhh’ when it happened.
- How about C.J. Gardner Johnson’s first career interception?! CJGJ came off his man to undercut the post-route for the pick.
- The Falcons held over a ten-minute edge in time of possession. They also outgained the Saints, and nearly doubled their amount of first downs. Still, it never felt like Atlanta was in control in any part of the game.