A healthy mix of rhythm and bruise (Kamara and Ingram), aggressive play calling, and the most accurate NFL kicker missing the first extra point of his career all contributed to the 24-23 Saints victory. Here a few things that stood out.
Running the ball
Sean Payton and the Saints came out with a heavy dose of runs in an attempt to tire out the Baltimore defensive line. On the opening drive alone, they ran 13 times as they were able to take over ten minutes off the clock. They would run the ball a total of 39 times. Kamara got the most rushes with 17 for 64 yards and Ingram added 32 yards on 12 runs. Brees and Taysom Hill added a few runs of their own. They were able to tire out the Baltimore defense and it was evident by the bigger runs the defense gave up later in the game.
The offensive line was able to do just enough to limit Baltimore’s defense to only one sack, even though they gave up a few pressures and hits on Brees. They were already starting off minus one starter and back up at guard, and to make matters worse, the backup starting in place of Andrus Peat, Josh LeRibeus, went down as well. Cameron Tom seemed to do a decent enough job with not much of a drop off once he entered the game. Hopefully this unit can get back to full health quickly, especially with Minnesota coming up next week.
Aggressive Sean Payton
The aggressiveness of the play calling, especially on the opening drive, was vintage Payton. It started with a direct snap to Taysom Hill on a fake punt, and continued as they would go for it on fourth down three more times on that drive. Even though they weren’t successful in putting points on the board, it still set the tone for the rest of the game. Payton knew he would need touchdowns to win, and his aggressiveness would pay off in the end.
Ben Watson and Dan Arnold
It appears this team has another ageless wonder besides Drew Brees in tight end Benjamin Watson. He was able to haul in 6 receptions for 43 yards including Brees’s 500th touchdown pass. Watson was also able to convert on a third down and nearly converted another one but was a foot short.
Dan Arnold made his first reception of the year on a nice back shoulder pass from Brees. He was able to beat out the hyped up undrafted free agent Deon Yelder in the preseason, but had not appeared in any games until week 5 against Washington. Hopefuly he will continue to improve and perhaps become the go to guy down the seam that this offense has been lacking so far this season.
Even on “quiet” days Thomas continues to show why he is a top 5 wide receiver in the NFL. He really is unarguable on slant passes, and his release at the line of scrimmage is ridiculous. You can see that on this late game first down reception.
He will continue to wreak havoc on secondaries, and with Tre’Quan Smith continuing to ascend there is no reason to think he will be slowing down anytime soon.