It was 3rd and 1 from the Minnesota 25.
The play-call was simple. Send Alvin Kamara up the middle to get a conversion so the Saints could milk the clock and finish the game off with a Will Lutz field goal. The ball is snapped, Kamara takes the hand-off and is stopped for a 1- yard loss by LB Brian Robison and CB Anthony Harris.
New Orleans would still get a 43-yard field goal from Will Lutz to take the lead, but now the game was in the Defenses hands with 25 seconds left on the clock.
We know how that story ended but when asked about it after the fact it wasn’t the defensive play that bothered Sean Payton the most, it was the inability to convert the previously mentioned 3rd down.
Do that and Lutz’s field goal is going through the uprights as time expires instead.
Looking back, the Saints season in a microcosm ended with them being short of one defensive playmaker and one offensive playmaker that could have turned the tide at any point during that game. Fast forward to 2018 and I can’t help but identify Taysom Hill and Demario Davis as being the missing ingredients to a Super Bowl Gumbo.
Hill has done it through the air, on the ground, by making key tackles, catching passes, throwing blocks, you name it – he’s done it.
Conversion after conversion, successful fake after successful fake Taysom Hill has energized the Saints offense and special teams.
“Every once in a while you’re around a player you just feel brings the energy to the rest of the team, and he’s one of those guys,” Payton said. “When he makes a play ... you can feel the bench react. He’s very unselfish.”
He’s been the catalyst on offense and special teams that was missing a year ago and because of him those units were able to overcome last years troubles with efficiency.
His counter-part on the other side of the ball was snubbed from what was a definite Pro-Bowl campaign in New Orleans.
Yes, David Onyemata and Sheldon Rankins got better in their 3rd year as they teamed with Tyler Davison and Taylor Stallworth to form a 4-man rotation that was integral in stopping the run.
It’s true that Alex Anzalone returned from an injury shortened rookie season to play in all 16 games and provide the type of presence at MLB the Saints hoped to get from Stephone Anthony, but make no mistakes about it the biggest difference in the Saints run defense can be attributed to none other than Demario Davis.
Davis went on to finish the regular season with 110 tackles, 11 TFL, 5 sacks, and 4 pdef but did you know that New Orleans hadn’t fielded a defense that held opponents to below 4.0 YPC (2nd in League with 3.6) since the 2001 team did it under Jim Haslett (12th in league at 3.9)?
Well now you do!
Everyone else that was on last years team is rounding in to form and contributed at or close to the same levels that they did in 2017 but if you ask me it was Hill and Davis that got the Saints over the proverbial hump.
3 Things I think about the 2019 NFC Championship
- Heavy Dose of Alvin Kamara
Sean Payton mentioned there will be heavy emphasis on giving Drew tells that dictate what coverage the Rams are in on defense. Kamara is your joker RB and Payton is notorious for using them to play chess. I think it’s possible he’ll be deployed all over the formation along with some ghost motion from the likes of Ted Ginn Jr., Taysom Hill, Tommylee Lewis, and Tre’Quan Smith to get the defense leaning one way while the play goes the other.
- Drew or Taysom will connect on a deep shot
It’s inevitable. Yes Drew Brees is currently 0-6 on passes traveling more than 35 yards through the air but he and Taysom were very close to connecting with Kamara and Ginn last week. The Rams don’t have a ton of speed on the back end (though they do have length) and this may present some opportunities for receivers to get behind the coverage on a few occasions. All it takes is one to connect to change the momentum and I think this is the game it comes together.
- Crowd and Defense can work in Tandem to make life hard for Rams offense
If the crowd provides noise prior to the 15 second cut off this will make it hard for Sean McVay and Jared Goff to communicate the plays, but if the defense disguises their coverage until after 15 seconds it means Goff must then decipher the defense alone. I think it’s an easy conclusion to draw that a Head Coach and QB in their first away playoff game together are sure to face some adversity, even if the Rams appear to be down playing it.
This 2018 team has a chance to do what the 2006 team was unable to do and that’s advance past the NFC Championship round. Believe it or not this team is more comparable to that team than the 2009 iteration that was able to win the Superbowl. The one difference is this one can take a punch as well as throw one and I believe the more physical team will win just like in 2007. Enjoy the game - Who Dat!