After Further Review: Five takes from Saints win over Rams

Published: Nov. 20, 2022 at 9:41 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 21, 2022 at 7:34 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Take One: Dalton’s best day

Saints head coach Dennis Allen made a big decision this week when he decided to stick with Andy Dalton at quarterback, despite two consecutive bad outings. It couldn’t have been an easy call given the circumstances.

Dalton rewarded Allen’s faith in him with his best performance as a Saint. Dalton was poised, accurate, and decisive. He finished 21/25 for 260 yards and three touchdowns. He also spread the ball around, as nine different players caught passes Sunday.

It felt like Dalton resorted back to the player he was in his first five starts, as opposed to the one that struggled in his last two. He’ll now hold onto the job for at least another week.

Take Two: Taysom’s increased QB snaps

What’s interesting about Dalton’s best effort as a Saint, is that it came on a day where he split the most time at the position. Taysom Hill played 16 snaps at quarterback, easily the most he’s had all season.

During the second drive of the game, Hill and Dalton alternated every snap. On their second quarter scoring drive, Hill played four of the seven snaps. Those drives resulted in 10 points.

The Saints only ran 56 plays in the game, which means Hill played 28% of their offensive snaps at quarterback. That’s not always an easy balance to strike at that position, but credit Pete Carmichael, who seemed to have a good pulse on when to rotate. It kept the Rams off-balanced most of the game.

Every week the topic of Hill’s usage comes up with our viewers, this week it appears the Saints made a deliberate effort to have the ball in Hill’s hands. He finished with nine carries, one reception, and went 1/3 passing.

Take Three: Where the game was won

When the Saints went into the locker room down 14-10 at halftime, there was an uneasy feeling of the game getting away from them.

With the ball first in the second half, they responded with their two best drives of the game. The first one was nine plays, 75 yards, and ended with Jarvis Landry’s first touchdown as a Saint.

The second was a near disaster when the Saints tried a trick play, a reverse pass that ended in a sack. But two plays later, Dalton completed his best throw as a Saint when he dropped an absolute dime of a deep ball to Chris Olave as he was hit by Aaron Donald. The connection was a thing of beauty, and put the Saints up, 24-14.

In a span of 9:05, the Saints went from down four to up ten, and essentially put the game away. The Rams never really threatened the rest of the way.

Take Four: Clean effort

Two penalties. Zero turnovers.

Sometimes the key to beating the opponent is to first not beat yourself. The Saints have struggled with that idea all season but not Sunday. One week after looking like a sloppy mess in Pittsburgh, the Saints displayed the kind of discipline necessary to win games with how their currently constructed.

While they didn’t create a takeaway, they were able to take care of the ball. It was good to see them take that aspect of the game seriously, and hopefully demonstrated what can happen when a team doesn’t beat themselves.

Take Five: Other Observations

  • The Saints wisely made Aaron Donald a priority when game-planning the Rams. Though, he made a few plays, for the most part they were able to keep him in check despite having a very banged up offensive line.
  • It was interesting to hear Dalton and Hill talk about having a ‘cut it loose’ mentality on offense. With where they’re at in the season, there’s really no point in holding anything back. That mentality shift might be the key to a more consistent offense.
  • Outstanding effort by linebackers Demario Davis and Kaden Elliss. They combined for 18 tackles and two sacks. It felt like 55 & 56 were everywhere on the field. It’s the kind of performance we’ve come to expect from Davis. In Ellis’s case, it was a bit more of a surprise. Elliss had primarily been a special teamer and Sam linebacker. No one really knew how he’d adjust to playing the weakside spot. Sunday’s work proved he’s more than capable, and he’s helped soften the blow of Pete Werner’s injury. Davis even called Elliss the ‘best kept secret in the NFL.’
  • Juwan Johnson used a ‘box out’ basketball move to gain inside position on his touchdown reception in the first half. He said after the game that route has always been for Michael Thomas’, but with Thomas now out, he’s become the box-out guy now around the goal line.
  • Johnson’s catch on the play right after the disaster trick play sack on 2nd & 23 helped set up a much more manageable third down for the Saints. That third down resulted in Dalton’s bomb to Olave.
  • With the way they’re currently constructed, the Saints should always strive for the 30-touch rule with Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill. Those two should never combine for less than 30 touches in a game. On Sunday, they had 29. It would’ve been 30 had Kamara not dropped the ball on the first play of the game.
  • It was interesting to hear Dennis Allen say the team had a good week of practice despite the negativity surrounding the team. When I went to watch practice Wednesday, the very first thing that struck me was how much energy the team had. Sometimes in those situations it could feel like a funeral in the building, but the Saints were lively and clearly focused on the task at hand. It’s also proof that Allen hasn’t lost the locker room.
  • 4-7 is certainly nowhere near where the Saints want to be. But falling to 3-8 would’ve essentially ended their season before Thanksgiving. It was nice to see the Saints respond to urgency of the situation.

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