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Saints vs. 49ers: Defense Shines Again...Sort Of

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The New Orleans Saints (4-4) got back to .500 yesterday by beating the San Francisco 49ers 41-23. Despite giving up loads of yards, the defense got stingy in the second half, allowing only three points. Here are five remarkable things that happened at Levi's Stadium for the Black and Gold.

The Who Dat Nation was in full force in Santa Clara
The Who Dat Nation was in full force in Santa Clara
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

42 Rushes, 248 Yards, Two Touchdowns

In his 10+ seasons as the head coach of the New Orleans Saints, Sean Payton's team has never rushed for more yards. But if you know how I think, yards are like a winning lottery ticket: it is worth absolutely nothing unless you cash it. What's super impressive here is that the Saints attempted 42 rushes, versus 39 passes. If you ask me, that's even too many passing attempts, but hey, we're talking about the Saints here. Last week against Seattle, the Saints rushed 35 times, because the game plan was to control the ball and keep the Seahawks' defense on the field. Yesterday, it was because the scouting report said that San Francisco was one of the worst rushing defenses in the entire NFL. So instead of going all out with his passing instincts, Sean Payton stuck to being smart and patient and stayed with the running game. It paid dividends. New Orleans is going to have to do the same exact thing next week against Denver, because as awesome as the Broncos' defense is, guess what their Achilles heel is? Yep, defending against the run.

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Angry Ingram is Eager

Mark Ingram was benched in the first quarter of the game against Seattle, after he had just lost another crucial fumble with the Saints driving into Seahawks territory. And as we've seen before when Ingram has been challenged, be it by Khiry Robinson or Chris Ivory, he has responded with a dynamite game the following week. Yesterday it was 15 carries, 158 yards (a long run of 75 yards) and one touchdown. The problem here is that Ingram seems to be a player who loses his focus and gets too comfortable when he doesn't fear for his job. I was happy to see Tim Hightower have more carries (23) than Ingram yesterday and I sincerely hope that continues until Hightower shows a clear decrease in production. As an NFL pro, Ingram should be able to be more self-driven that he has shown in his tenure in New Orleans. I love the message Payton sent by making him the backup yesterday and I certainly hope that one good game doesn't mean he's automatically reinstated as the starter next week. Because to go anywhere this season, the Saints are going to need "Motivated Mark Ingram," not the satisfied, fumbling version.

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We've All Seen This Movie Before

In both 2014 and 2015, the Saints had wobbly starts to the season, then fought their way back to 4-4. In 2014, they lost three straight games and were 4-7 before any of us could blink. In 2015, they lost four straight after getting to .500 and were 4-8 by December 6. With three of the next four games being at home (Denver, at Carolina, Los Angeles, Detroit) the Saints have a chance to change the bad trend they established the past two years. This is where the season truly starts for New Orleans, against tough Denver and LA defenses, a rejuvenated Carolina team and a Detroit squad that boasts an offense nearly as lethal as their own. Whatever props Sean Payton has in his storage closet on Airline Drive, be it wooden bats or mouse traps, this is the time to bring them out. I would even be in favor of hiring a Voodoo priestess to exorcise the demons of years past or something like that. Just find a way to get above .500 for the first time since December 29, 2013. Please? Thank you.

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Three Points!!!

This is my old (and continuous) rant about total yards all over again. You may remember that last week, the Saints' defense allowed only six points to the Seahawks in the second half, despite giving up 198 yards in that half alone. Yesterday against the San Francisco 49ers, the Saints gave up all of three points in the second half, despite surrendering 167 yards in the half and an unflattering total of 486 yards for the game. In the end in the NFL, it's about how many points you give up, and nothing else. When you consider that New Orleans also allowed only six points to the Chiefs in the second half three games ago, the Saints' second half scoring defense in the last three games is five (5) points-per-game. That's damn good y'all, whether it's halftime adjustments, luck or a little bit of both, that's damn good. Now if they could just figure out that first half scoring defense, right?

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Welcome Back, Breaux!

How good was it to see number 40 out there yesterday? Sure, Delvin is probably not in full game shape yet and the Saints limited his snaps, which is smart. On the other side of the field, cornerback Sterling Moore was back as well, seemingly recovered enough from the abdomen injury that kept him out of the last two games. In time, Ken Crawley may become a good player in the NFL, but right now he has no business starting at cornerback in the league. Rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins made his season debut as well and the Saints may just be getting healthy at the right time on defense. Marie Laveau knows they can use all the help they can get on that side of the ball. Who Dat y'all, on to Denver in the Dome next Sunday!