Unlike in week 2 against the Browns, the Saints offense came out running on all cylinders against the Falcons. Sean Payton was able to exploit the depleted Falcons defense especially with Alvin Kamara, where the absence of Deion Jones was felt the most. Taysom Hill was also involved in a number of ways, lining up as a wide receiver and his natural position of quarterback. Michael Thomas continued his monster season, adding 10 receptions and also breaking Julio Jones’s record for most receptions through the first three games of a season.
Setting the tone
The Saints took the opening drive down the field for a touchdown pass to Ted Ginn on a well designed play that included Taysom Hill lined up as a receiver. But For the rest of the drive, it was all Kamara and Thomas.
1st & 10 at NO 25
The Saints open up the game going deep. They line up in shotgun with trips to the left with the tight end Watson standing to the right and Kamara in the backfield. Michael Thomas is lined up in the slot between Meredith and Ted Ginn. The latter two receivers will both run go routes and Thomas will run a deep crossing route across the field.
Watson is open on his drag route, thanks to Ginn and Meredith clearing out that side with their routes, but Brees like Thomas’s match up more and will hit him for a 35 yard gain.
1st & 10 at ATL 40
The next play call is an outside zone run for Kamara. Atlanta’s defensive end (#44) is able to get to the outside of Ryan Ramczyk and fill the C-gap, where the play is supposed to go. Kamara has the vision to see this and will bend the run back inside for a 17 yard gain. Notice that Josh LeRibeus loses his footing but is able to recover and pick up his block.
1st & 10 at ATL 23
Another play call for Kamara. The Saints come out with 12 personnel (one running back and two tight ends) on the boundary side and two receivers to the field. Payton calls a four verticals concept where the receivers and tight ends will each run go routes.
This clears out the underneath defenders where Kamara runs a swing route and catches the ball with space to pick up yards after the catch. This is a play where the Saints take advantage of the defenses lack of speed without Deion Jones on the field, who may have been able to diagnose the play and get to the running back sooner before Kamara picks up 11 yards.
1st & 10 at ATL 12
Here the Saints call a “slice zone” run. As the name says, it is a zone run that features a slice block from tight end Josh Hill. The offensive line will flow one way and allow the backside defensive end (#50) to go unblocked while Hill will run behind the line of scrimmage in the opposite direction to block the edge defender.
LeRibeus misses his block on the defensive tackle Terrell McClain (#99), who uses a swipe move to knock down LeRibeus ’s initial punch. McClain then is able to shed enough of Terron Armstead’s block and brings down Kamara by his ankles for a 3 yard gain.
2nd & 7 at ATL 9
The offense will face a 2nd down for the first time and once again, its Kamara who gets his number called. They roll out with 3 receivers, a tight end, and Kamara at running back in shotgun formation. The two inside receivers (Watson and Meredith) will run post routes, while on the outside Ginn and Thomas will each run a curl.
Pre-snap Kamara will motion from Brees’s left to his right. This appears to be an option route by Kamara, who sees that the defense is playing zone and will “settle” underneath in a vacated zone to make the catch for a 5 yard gain that sets up a 3rd down.
3rd & 2 at ATL 4
The Saints come out with a three receiver set in a bunch formation that includes Taysom Hill, who will go in motion to the right side of the formation pre-snap. The cornerback will follow Hill, tipping off Brees that it is man coverage.
They run a fake toss bootleg. The play is designed to have the defense flow with the running back running towards the left off the fake, while the quarterback and receivers will run in the opposite direction. Ginn will run behind the line of scrimmage to the flat where he will make the reception. The cornerback (#23) saw this play coming the whole way and had a good angle on Ginn to make the tackle for a loss, but Ginn is able to spin away from him and walk into the end zone.
What stood out most on this play was the use of Hill. Payton could integrate more plays with Hill in the red zone where his 38.5 inch vertical and 221 pound frame could create match up nightmares for smaller corners.
As you can see, the Saints wasted no time putting points on the board. They also came out and attacked the backup middle linebacker who was replacing the injured pro bowler Jones. This is similar to the way the Carolina Panthers took advantage of Jones’s absence the week prior to get Christian McCaffrey 14 receptions on 15 targets.
Without many proven playmakers at the linebacker spot Kamara could see similar usage against The New York Giants this upcoming week; although I’m sure Payton would like to see someone else step up.
The game ended much like it began, with the offense rolling down the field to get a touchdown. The Saints were in total control of the final 7 minutes of regulation and they carried that over to the extra period. Here’s a breakdown of the overtime drive that ended with Brees’s signature jump over the pile.
Saints vs Falcons OT playchart
|TIME||DOWN & DISTANCE||PERSONNEL||TYPE||RESULT|
|TIME||DOWN & DISTANCE||PERSONNEL||TYPE||RESULT|
|9:55||1ST & 10||11||PASS||8 YD RECEPTION BY WATSON|
|9:14||2ND & 2||11||RUN||ZONE RUN. 3 YDS|
|8:44||1ST & 10||12||PASS||23 YD RECEPTIOPM BY THOMAS|
|7:58||1ST & 10||11||PASS||9 YD RECEPTION BY KAMARA|
|7:27||2ND & 1||11||RUN||KAMARA 2 YDS|
|6:55||1ST & 10||11||PASS||INCOMPLETE. INTENDED FOR FOR WATSON|
|6:51||2ND & 10||10||PASS||2 YD SCREEN TO KAMARA|
|6:06||3RD & 8||20||PASS||8 YD RECEPTION BY KAMARA|
|5:53||1ST & 10||11||PASS||9 YD RECEPTION BY THOMAS|
|5:08||2ND & 1||22||RUN||2 YD RUN|
|4:26||1ST & 10||11||PASS||INCOMPLETE. INTENDED FOR FOR KAMARA|
|4:23||2ND & 10||11||PASS||5 YD RECEPTION BY LINE|
|3:41||3RD & 5||11||PASS||6 YD RECEPTION BY THOMAS|
|3:10||1ST & GOAL||21||PASS||2 YD PASS TO KAMARA|
|2:58||2ND & GOAL||23||RUN||DREW BREES 1 YD RUN. TOUCHDOWN|
They only faced two 3rd downs but were able to convert on both with passes to Kamara and Thomas. The offense continues to run through these two while Mark Ingram sits out his suspension. He should be able to take some of the load off of them, but they need to have another one of the skill players step up.
Cameron Meredith could be that player. He was able to score his first touchdown in black and gold on his very first reception.
He showed good awareness to keep moving when Brees was flushed from the pocket and found a soft spot in the zone defense the Falcons were playing. If he can continue to build chemistry with Brees, and making plays like this, it would add another threat in an already potent offense.