After Further Review: Five takes from Saints win over Lions

After Further Review: Five takes from Saints win over Lions
Saints head coach Sean Payton and linebacker Craig Robertson greet each other during the team's pregame stretch (Source: Edwin Goode, WVUE-FOX 8)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Take One: ‘Nobody cares’

It was a raw, honest response from Sean Payton after the game when describing his team’s bizarre night in Detroit.

He’s right. In the grand scheme of things no one does care, and clearly that was the message drilled to the team when the Saints took the field Sunday. It showed in their effort.

Still, what transpired at the Saints team hotel was truly unprecedented and yet so 2020.

The team found out late Saturday night that fullback Michael Burton tested positive for covid-19 and was on the team plane, leaving Sunday’s noon kickoff in doubt.

That forced the Saints to contact trace everyone Burton was next to on the plane and pull them out of their rooms to take their point of contact re-test.

Fortunately, Burton’s test turned to be a false positive and all others tested were negative as well. Payton said the team officially got word at around 3am that everything was good and the game was still on as scheduled.

After the game Payton said there was a delay in getting the POC tests Saturday and that the contract tracing system was inaccurate.

As for the standard testing procedures the Saints use, under normal circumstances the results of the test Burton took would have come back around 2 or 3 am Sunday morning.

In this scenario, the team was fortunate to get those results back a little early. Had the results come back at their regular time, there may not have been enough time to re-test everyone and still play the game as scheduled.

Take Two: Brees responds

Five straight touchdowns doesn’t happen without supreme offensive execution and quarterback play.

After a fluky interception on the first offensive snap, Drew Brees looked like Drew Brees as he shredded Detroit all game long.

A lot was made last week about Brees throwing it downfield. But with Brees, the more concerning thing was not the deep ball but missing second-level throws.

He didn’t miss many Sunday.

Early in the game, he found Emmanuel Sanders on a corner route and a dig over the middle. Later he connected with Tre’Quan Smith on two overs: one for a touchdown; the other for huge third down conversion. On an early fourth down, Brees dropped an absolute dime to Alvin Kamara on a wheel route for a huge gain.

Brees was in complete command and played like a guy that had enough of his critics. His performance, as Kamara put it, should ‘shut everybody up.’

Inside the locker room everyone knows, nine will be just fine.

Take Three: Dominant ground game

Show me a Sean Payton-led team rushing 42 times in a game, and I’ll show you a guaranteed victory.

It happened Sunday in Detroit.

Kamara and Latavius Murray ran behind the Saints offensive line and steamrolled the Lions for 164 yards on the ground. The dominance of the line of scrimmage led to a massive 36:46-23:14 edge in time of possession.

Credit Payton. After two straight games where it felt like he abandoned the run game too early, on Sunday he stuck with it even when his team fell behind by 14 points early. At one point in the first half, the Saints ran the ball seven straight times. They closed out the third quarter with five straight runs. They closed out the game with a Kamara run on 3rd &4.

As for this team as a whole, it’s built to dominate on the ground. Hopefully, Payton stays with this formula. It can lead this team to more victories this season.

Take Four: Filling in

Playing with six starters out is never easy, but the Saints persevered.

Of all the replacements, the game ball of the ‘next men up’ crew had to go to Patrick Robinson. Robinson had an early tackle on Adrian Peterson and PBU on a slant route.

His biggest play though came in the second quarter. With the game tied at 14, Detroit was moving the ball. Matt Stafford tried to test Robinson in the end zone, but P Rob was there to make a leaping interception on an underthrown pass. The Lions were never the same after that.

P.J. Williams also played well in fill-in role as well.

Take Five: Other observations

  • The Saints were much better in the discipline department Sunday. They only had four penalties. Two of those were questionable at best against Alex Anzalone in pass coverage.
  • Taysom Hill is in a bit of a slump. The zone read isn’t working. He fumbled a snap once again but was fortunate to have Kamara recover. Going back to last season, his best running plays came off quarterback sweeps where he was able to get going right off the snap. Perhaps they should mix more of those in to get him back on track.
  • Tre’Quan Smith had a great day for the Saints catching the football, but one of his best plays was recovering a fumble from Josh Hill. The ball was rolling fast downfield and Smith was able to track it down with Lions defenders all around.
  • Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson did a nice job of selling run on his touchdown reception. On the play, Hockenson fell to the ground. This forced Malcolm Jenkins to look up for run, when he did Hockenson got up and sneaked into the flat wide open for the score. He also made an incredible catch for a two-point conversion late in the game.
  • Emmanuel Sanders played his best game in a Saints uniform. The chemistry between he and Brees is growing with each week.
  • Stafford is an interesting case when it comes to NFL franchise quarterbacks. He puts up great numbers and makes his share of ‘wow’ plays, but he makes some incredibly bad decisions at times.
  • 2-2 at the quarter turn is not where the Saints want to be but it’s a whole lot better than 1-3. History has shown a 1-3 first quarter of the season is too much for Payton-led teams to overcome. Fortunately, they won’t have to do that this season.

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