The New Orleans Saints earned a small amount of vindication last night against the team that ended their 2017 championship run by defeating the Minnesota Vikings 30-20 in front of a national audience. More important than any amount of revenge, felt mostly by the fanbase, the Saints won a key game against an NFC foe and recorded their sixth consecutive victory. They did so without big production from their passing game, Drew Brees had just 120 yards on 23 attempts for the game, but instead with a physical ball control attack and the return of a big play defense. Sean Payton's play calling was creative and confident from the outset, evidenced in Taysom Hill's 44-yd. completion to Michael Thomas, and another play where all three of the New Orleans quarterbacks were on the field at the same time. Defensively, the Saints still did not have an answer for Minnesota wideouts Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, who combined for 17 catches, 222 yards and two touchdowns. P.J. Williams continues to make some wonder why he still has a job even near an NFL stadium. He did manage to become un-P.J. like by returning a Kirk Cousins misfire for the Saints first defensive touchdown of the season, one of two huge turnovers forced by the defense on the night. Linebackers Demario Davis and A.J. Klein continue to play outstanding sideline to sideline football, and the Saints defensive line is influencing games in the team's favor each week. New Orleans may have found a cornerback answer in newly acquired Eli Apple, who had some rocky moments but showed the type of feisty man to man ability that may perfectly complement Marshon Lattimore in the secondary down the stretch. Here are some of the game's biggest performers from this crucial road triumph.
The Minnesota defense was banged up coming into this contest. Pro bowlers Anthony Barr and Xavier Rhodes would miss the game with injury, along with starting safety Andrew Sendejo. The Vikings still have a devastating pass rush though, and welcomed All-Pro defensive end Everson Griffen back to the lineup. Armstead led a stout performance from the New Orleans offensive line that not only did not allow Brees to be sacked, but for the most part did not even let their quarterback feel duress. Armstead and his linemates also opened holes through the Minnesota defense to allow their backs to pick up 106 yards on the ground, allowing New Orleans to control both the ball and the pace of the game.
Rankins had two devastating sacks on Cousins during the victory, and consistently dominated the Vikings interior line all night. He finished with 3 total tackles, and helped a New Orleans defensive effort that held the Vikings to under 4 yards per carry and 100 yards rushing for the game. Rankins continues to play at a Pro Bowl level, and has been nearly unblockable at times.
Jordan did not register a sack on the evening, but seemed to be in the Vikings backfield on nearly every play. He had 3 tackles and batted down two passes, and even more importantly pushed Minnesota tackles into the pass pocket from the edge all game, hurrying or forcing Kirk Cousins from the pocket on a number of plays. His dominance forced the Vikings to adjust their blocking schemes, which helped free up opportunities for Jordan's teammates.
Davenport had the other two of the Saints four sacks of Cousins. They were the rookie's only two tackles in the game, but he continues to flash the ability of a dominant defender. Davenport is proving extremely difficult for offensive tackles to handle one on one, a scary proposition for opponents already faced with having to contain Sheldon Rankins and Cameron Jordan. Davenport explodes down the line in pursuit as well, shutting down cutback lanes against the run and able to run down a scrambling quarterback.
The New Orleans Saints will face another high profile contender on a roll when they host the undefeated Los Angeles Rams next Sunday. The Saints have not just won six games in a row, they have done so by imposing their will over their opponents, and coming away with victories in a variety of ways. The New Orleans players downplayed any revenge factor as they headed into this game, but it was still an emotional contest, given how their 2017 season had ended. The battle hardened Saints now face another marquee opponent, but do so with the utmost confidence that they can beat any team, in any style of game.
Who had the Saints top performance in the defeat of Minnesota
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