The New Orleans Saints improved to 4-2, with a 26-17 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday that moved them into first place in the NFC South. After a first quarter that was at times was as ugly for New Orleans as the weather and the slick turf at Lambeau Field, the Saints rebounded to outscore the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers 19-3 in the second half.
As always, Canal Street Chronicles awards our game balls after a Saints victory. Today we throw in another baseball twist in honor of the beginning of the World Series.
Game Ball #1 — Alex Okafor
Okafor continues to grade out as one of the Saints top run defenders, ranking as the 5th best run defender in the league on Sunday according to PFF (Pro Football Focus) with a 14.3 run stop percentage. Okafor also had the only New Orleans sack on the day, beating the Packers offensive line with an explosive inside move and stripping Green Bay quarterback Brett Hundley from the ball, bringing his season total to 3 sacks. He is starting to provide a more consistent pass rushing threat opposite Saints star Cam Jordan, showing the ability to remain on the field in every situation for the Saints pressure oriented defense.
Game Ball #2 — Marshon Lattimore
Lattimore has become a fixture in this column, and along with Cam Jordan has become the Saints' best and most consistent defender. Lattimore was the highest rated cornerback in the league on Sunday, earning a PFF grade of 93.6. He did not allow a single reception on the three times he was targeted, even while facing the talented Packers trio of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Devante Adams. His importance to the defense was on display during Green Bay's second series, when he aggressively broke up what should have been an easy quick slant to Adams on 3rd and short, forcing a punt. Lattimore's coverage ability allowed the rest of the New Orleans defense to hold Nelson, Cobb, and Adams to a combined 5 catches for 40 yards. The Ohio State rookie seems on pace to be the first Saints cornerback elected to the Pro Bowl in decades.
Game Ball #3 — Ted Ginn Jr.
Ginn was struck with a case of the drops that has infamously followed him throughout his career, but it was as a punt returner, not receiver. Rebounding from two muffs of Green Bay punts in the first half, Ginn finished with the Saints’ top receiving performance of the day, with 7 receptions for 141 yards. He was the highest PFF graded of a Saints trio of wideouts, along with Michael Thomas and Brandon Coleman, that victimized Packers rookie cornerback Kevin King all afternoon, catching all five of their targets for 143 yards and a touchdown (Coleman) while in King's coverage.
The Saints offense has utilized Ginn on crossing patterns and other quick routes, and the 11th year veteran has showcased his open field abilities along with showing surprising consistency within the offense. His 81.5 catch percentage on 27 targets is the highest on the team among it's primary pass catchers (tight end Josh Hill has receptions on all 4 of his targets), and has Ginn on pace for the most productive year of his career.
Game Ball #4 — Mark Ingram
Ingram had his second straight game of over 100 yards rushing, rolling up 105 and a touchdown on 22 carries. He teamed with Alvin Kamara (57 rushing yards and 50 receiving) to keep the Green Bay defense off balance, causing more opportunities for the Saints wideouts through the second half and helping New Orleans hold a 14 minute edge in time of possession. Ingram's 80.8 PFF grade was good for 5th in the league, and he continues to be one of this offense's primary focal points.
Double Play — A.J. Klein and Craig Robertson
The Packers gashed the New Orleans run defense on the game's opening drive, rushing for 70 yards on just four carries, culminating in an easy 46-yard touchdown romp by Aaron Jones. Jones did rush for 131 yards on the day, but held him to just 61 yards after that first drive, and only 34 in the second half. The Saints front four played stronger as the game progressed, but it was the solid and versatile play of linebackers Robertson and Klein that solidified as well.
Both players had six tackles each to lead the defense, and were in on some big 3rd down stops during the course of the game. Hundley, making his first career start for the Packers, never could establish a comfort level with any of his receivers. Part of that was due to the outstanding coverage of Lattimore, but Hundley was also not able to use any of his backs or tight ends consistently due to good coverage from Robertson and Klein.
Martellus Bennett, one of the more athletic tight ends in the league, was held to just two catches for 17 yards. Klein made 2 athletic pass break ups downfield in the second half, one to Bennett and another to Cobb, to end Packer drives. Robertson continued to be all over the field, showing the form that allowed him to be the Saints leading tackler a year ago, and spearheading a defense that is improving into a formidable unit.
Who was your top performer in the Saints victory over the Packers?
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Ted Ginn Jr