NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Take One: Eerie Atmosphere
Football is not meant to be played in silence, at least not football in the Superdome. The empty stands made for an incredibly weird dynamic Sunday. My gameday walk from the elevator to the press box was legitimately eerie with no one around. Little things like TV timeouts felt like an eternity with everything so quiet. The piped-in noise sounded much better on TV than it did in person.
Credit the Saints though, they’re used to that building having a certain sound and on Sunday they didn’t have it. Yet, they still managed to create enough energy to win the game.
2020 has been a time for adapting in all walks of life, and the NFL is doing what they have to do to get games played safely amid the pandemic. But fanless stadiums is something I never want to get used to. It’s not the way the games are supposed to be played.
Hopefully, a few members of the Who Dat Nation will be allowed inside the Dome next month.
Take Two: Scrappy secondary
Marcus Williams had an interception. Janoris Jenkins had a pick-six. Marshon Lattimore shut down Mike Evans, while C.J. Gardner-Johnson led the team with ten tackles. Overall, the Saints secondary had a fantastic day on Sunday. True, they also had four pass interference calls and all of them led to Bucs' points, but that tends to happen when you have such an aggressive defensive backfield.
The secondary was the most impressive position group throughout training camp. Sometimes camp prowess can be nothing more than fools gold, but in the case of the Saints secondary it was a precursor of what was to come.
Take Three: Cook’s big catch
On a day when big offensive plays were hard to come by, the biggest Saints connection came on an audible by Drew Brees. The Bucs cut the lead to 24-17, and the Saints offense was in search of a spark. Brees noticed the Bucs coverage and checked at the line. Jared Cook was lined up on the outside and ran a double move and beat his defender. Brees hit him in stride for a 46-yard gain, his longest of the day. Four plays later, Brees found Emmanuel Sanders for a touchdown that put the game out of reach.
Cook has certainly earned Brees' trust in crucial situations. He had five catches on the day. The four before his big 46-yarder all came on third down where he converted two of them for first downs.
Take Four: Special teams prowess
The Saints special teams opened up their 2020 season with an incredible effort. Deonte Harris averaged 18 yards per punt return. Margus Hunt burst through the line late in the second quarter to block a Tampa Bay field goal. He’d gotten back there so fast, he didn’t even need to jump. In the fourth quarter, Thomas Morstead tried a ‘pooch’ kickoff after a facemask penalty on the Emmanuel Sanders touchdown, the Bucs couldn’t handle the kick and Bennie Fowler recovered. Hunt and Fowler were both signed to the active roster Friday and made two impact plays.
Take Five: Other Observations
- Alvin Kamara didn’t have a great stat line but was very effective in the red zone. He read his blocks nicely on his early screen pass for a touchdown. Then, he was able to punch one in on the ground from six yards out. Kamara also showed incredible speed beating Lavonte David to turn the corner on a fourth quarter run that was originally ruled a touchdown before being overturned. It was a solid day for the Saints new $75 million man.
- Sean Payton didn’t waste anytime throwing some wrinkles at the Bucs. On one play, he had Kamara lined up in the pistol at quarterback and had two players lined up on either side of him with another behind him in a diamond formation. Later, Payton called for a double pass when Brees threw it to Taysom Hill who then threw it to Kamara for 38 yards.
- Payton was also brutally honest about his day calling plays. He said it was one of his worst and called his performance ‘awful.’
- On Sanders' touchdown, he had the defender completely faked out pre-snap when he motioned right, then turned back left and then turned back right before running a route to the flat.
- Malcolm Roach was active over Shy Tuttle Sunday and had two impressive tackles. One of them went for a loss.
- Trey Hendrickson and Carl Granderson both put in quality reps at defensive end opposite Cam Jordan.
- Speaking of Jordan, he had a hysterical line when asked about the atmosphere Sunday: “it felt like we were at a Tampa Bay game.”
- All Saints players on the sideline stood for the National Anthem. Malcolm Jenkins was in the locker room and appeared to join the team after the song concluded.
- Tom Brady clearly needs some more time to get on the same page with his new set of weapons. However, when these two teams meet again in November, that Bucs' offense will likely look a lot different.
Copyright 2020 WVUE. All rights reserved.