After Further Review: Five takes from Saints’ win over Patriots
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Take One: New formula for success
Through three games the Saints highest passing total is 148 yards. Yet here they are 2-1, with an average margin of victory 26.5 points.
Welcome to the new, New Orleans Saints: A team that’s built on playing dominant defense, running the football, and not making mistakes. It may not be the sexiest brand of ball, but it’s a formula that’s working for this group.
Most importantly, everyone is buying in including the head coach, who sounds like a guy that’s fully embracing his team’s new DNA.
“I know this, just being in this league long enough, sometimes that formula has to change,” Sean Payton said after the game.
Bottom line: After three games it’s working.
In their two victories, the Saints haven’t trailed. In their lone defeat, the Saints did not lead.
Take Two: Saints defense rolls Patriots
The Saints defense suffocated the Patriots all game, and made them work for every inch. They completely took away their ability to run the ball, and were able to disrupt Mac Jones with their pass rush.
They also took the ball away three times. P.J. Williams’ second quarter interception set up a Saints score. Malcolm Jenkins’ pick-six on the the very first play of the second half put the Saints up 21-3. A lead that felt insurmountable at the time.
While the Patriots cut the score to 21-6, it took them 9:05 to get in position for the field goal. That’s a long time to kill for three points.
Short of one half against Carolina, this defense has been dominant through three games. Remember, they’re doing this without guys like Kwon Alexander, David Onyemata and Marcus Davenport.
Take Three: The Drive
At the 9:22 mark of the fourth quarter, the Patriots cut the Saints lead to 21-13, and there was a sense of anxiety in the air.
That’s when the Saints responded with one of their most impressive drives of the season.
The team went 75 yards on 13 plays and chewed up 6:45 off the clock. Jameis Winston only threw three passes on the drive, but connected on the most important on, 3rd-and-7 to Deonte Harris for 12 yards.
The other ten plays were runs right at the Patriots defense with a combination of Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill. They combined for 53 yards on the ground. Kamara moved the sticks twice, while Hill hurdled a defender, wisely kept the ball on an attempted jump pass, and dropped the final hammer on the game with a quarterback power into the end zone.
It was a statement drive that cemented the new identity of this 2021 Saints team.
Take Four: Evaluating Winston through three games
Overall, Winston did a nice job of executing the team’s game plan, and accomplished the No. 1 goal of taking care of the football.
Still, there were some iffy moments. His second touchdown pass was a complete prayer, throwing it up in the back of the end zone. Fortunately, Marquez Callaway came down with it, but even Payton called it a ‘hold your breath’ moment. There was another near sack where Winston threw it falling down, and had the ball tipped at the line of scrimmage, that could’ve been problematic. There were a couple of plays where he held on to the ball too long.
Through three games, the honest evaluation of Winston really depends on the lens you’re looking through. He hasn’t been perfect, but he’s avoiding the crucial mistakes that costs teams. In that regard, he’s giving the Saints exactly what they’ve asked him to do. Plus, Winston sounds like a guy that’s completely fine leaving his gunslinger days behind. Even if he weren’t, the Saints aren’t going to allow him to get into that mode here like he was in Tampa Bay.
However, there will come a time where the Saints will need Winston to take over a game. When that time comes, we’ll know just how far Winston has grown in his game.
Take Five: Other Observations
- Demario Davis was literally everywhere on the field.
- Two missed field goals made this game a lot closer than it needed to be. Aldrick Rosas’ may not have much time left in New Orleans.
- It was interesting that Pauslon Adebo got the start at cornerback despite Bradley Roby being healthy. Clearly, the Saints trust the rookie.
- Speaking of rookies, Pete Werner got the start at weakside linebacker and did a decent job. He rotated with Zack Baun at the position.
- C.J .Gardner-Johnson makes a huge difference in the Saints secondary. So does Marshon Lattimore, even with his cast.
- Tanoh Kpassagnon gave the Saints some quality snaps up front.
- Terron Amsted’s elbow injury is something to monitor going forward. He knew it immediately after he got off the ground and ran straight to the locker room.
- On a first half pass, Winston wanted Juwan Johnson on a deep over route, but Johnson stopped running his route. The play looked like it had a chance.
- The Saints will finally be back in the Dome Sunday. They’ve been away from New Orleans since Aug. 27.
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