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What We Learned: Cam Jordan and Marshon Lattimore star in Saints 52-38 victory over Lions

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Cam Jordan and Marshon Lattimore turned in big performances to help the D vs the Lions but the offense continues to struggle. Is this a trend or an anomaly?

Detroit Lions v New Orleans Saints Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Honestly,

The best thing to happen to Cam Jordan was the hire of Aaron Glenn and then the subsequent drafting of CB Marshon Lattimore. Simply put, just look at the play below to understand why I feel that way.

Right now, Cameron Jordan is on pace for double-digit sacks, and it has everything to do with the improved coverage down in New Orleans - and specifically the cover ability of Lattimore. Per PFF, he and Jordan are Top 5 in the NFL at their respective positions through six weeks.

While this is pretty normal for Jordan, typically rookie DBs have a hard time adjusting to the NFL, so what Lattimore is doing is impressive - highly impressive! While he was flagged for a questionable PI call, he also made two of the biggest plays of the game. The interception return for a TD on a deflected Matthew Stafford pass (above), and the big 4th Down stop where he showed amazing hips/improved vision in zone coverage to halt Darren Fells (6’7, 281) short of the goal line (below).

Moving on.

The Saints dismantled the Lions on their way to 3-2 and because it’s such a big win there are more than enough positive things to point out. So much so that I’m going to take a different approach than usual and discuss things that were negative and or even appeared negative on the heels of Sunday’s victory.

But we almost blew a Lead...

Brandy had a hit song in the early 2000’s called “Almost Doesn’t Count”, and that’s an accurate assessment of what nearly happened on Sunday. In case no one noticed, at least six teams including the Saints saw double-digit leads vanish on Sunday The NFL is all about parity at this point, and thus the Any Given Sunday moniker is more true than it’s ever been. Two of those teams, the Falcons (Failclowns to some) and Jets ended up losing, while the other three (Bears, Cardinals, Jets) were able to squeak by with victories. Yes, they almost gave up a lead to a Lions team that would not stop fighting. Yes, things got a little scary at the end but the most important thing is that they didn’t go full Falcon. Never go full Falcon.

Just missed him, Coach

Detroit Lions v New Orleans Saints Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Remember Bear Hugger, the second fighter you faced in the SNES classic Super Punch Out? Yeah, well the Saints defense would be good to take some lessons from him on wrapping up ball carriers and making tackles. I mentioned it in the Keys to Victory piece prior to the game, and it ended up being an issue that resulted in far too much leaky yardage and another TD for Golden Tate. This must be fixed, especially if they are going to play as much man to man as we’ve seen in successive weeks. Guys will be tasked to get their man down by themselves or at least hold him up long enough for the troops to rally. This wasn’t much of a problem in zone because there was more group tackling prevalent but in Man coverage plays like the one to Golden Tate are going to be a regular occurrence unless they resolve this ASAP.

The offense has been anything but a Brees

Detroit Lions v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

I will put my flame retardant suit on for this, but there seems to be a noticeable decline in Drew’s once pin point accuracy and ball location. Granted, there were some late throws yesterday that can be attributed to looking for a big play first, but I saw Brees short-arm a couple of throws that should have been easy completions for him. Much Ado about Nothing? Perhaps. But we’re six games in, and the offense hasn’t really found a rhythm yet. That’s typically NOT the case on a Sean Payton team. They might start a game or two sluggish but this far in the O is usually humming and it’s yet to find its footing.

Brees doesn’t appear to be forcing balls akin to last year, meaning he’s not feeling the weight of the team on his shoulders and yet is it really hard to fathom that father time may have started to catch up with him in some ways? For now, I’ll say the lack of a reliable TE and a receiving corps that’s still trying to work Willie Snead (primary 3rd down guy) in is the main culprit.

Miscellaneous Notes

  • Trey Hendrickson made Daryl Tapp expendable, and has now appeared to jump Hau’oli Kikaha as the 3rd down rusher. Maybe there was something to those trade reports after all!?
  • Saints are confident in Kenny Vaccaro’s man cover ability from the slot. They appeared to like his matchup vs. Golden Tate whenever he was moved there.
  • Loved the FB option, but to me the creativity suggested we aren’t confident we can get a yard up the middle. Trey Edmunds is there for special teams, and not sure they are ready to give him game carries yet. Khiry Robinson being worked out makes sense, but Daniel Lasco is back in the mix.
  • Marcus Williams had some of his bad college film show up in the NFL. His tackling is questionable, and he doesn’t locate the ball well when it’s over his head.
  • The Saints used a lot of 3-man fronts with Klein serving as a blitzing OLB on one side and Bell, Vaccaro, and Bush handling blitzing on the opposite. Very Unique.
  • There is a Need for Snead, but we’ll have to be patient while he works his way back into the offense.
  • Dennis Allen tried to disguise coverage in the first two weeks and it hurt us, now he appears to be disguising the defensive fronts and keeping the roles in the secondary static. It’s working.
  • Michael Thomas will be fine. Darius Slay, their secondary, and scheme are very sound. They obviously made it a point not to allow him to beat them.
  • Terron Armstead’s impact was HUGE. His presence allows them to do things like pull Andrus Peat on toss plays knowing he can seal the down block.
  • Ken Crawley has outperformed P.J. Williams in coverage and as a professional. The latter is probably the most important so you can’t pull him unless he proves he can’t play.
  • I was wrong about Adrian Peterson - for now. He’s clearly still got gas in the tank but let’s see if he continues to do that in Week 14 when said tank has started to empty.
  • Saints are becoming painfully thin at LB same as last year and you started seeing STs get affected because of it. They need to stop the bleeding.

My biggest concern with this team is eventually the turnovers will come to a halt and the defense will have to hang its hat on something else. Remember their 3rd down conversion rate? It was at 50% vs. the Lions aka 2% higher than their year to date average. If law of averages catch up, causing the turnovers to stop and the offense continues to struggle like it’s doing now, Saints fans could be exposed to some tough losses later in the season. With that being said, that’s the beautiful thing about an ugly win like this one. It gives a team things to work on and fix so they don’t become overconfident. Drop your thoughts and comments below and let the W soak in for a little bit longer while enjoying the Cam Jordan sack below. We’ll start looking toward the Packers on Thursday.

Who Dat!