Well, this was hard to get through. The season wasn’t supposed to end this early, especially on a no-call as obvious as the pass interference and helmet to helmet hit on Tommylee Lewis.
But alas, I have a job to do, and hopefully we can take some solace in knowing that we have a young team that should be competitive for years to come, with or without Drew Brees at the helm.
Without further ado, the tape:
The first touchdown came at the end of the first quarter on a staple play of many football teams throughout all levels of the game—the mesh concept.
The mesh concept was created during the early days of the Air Raid offense by Lavell Edwards at BYU.
The main part of this play are the two underneath crossing routes ran from receivers on opposite sides of the formation. The crossing routes are to be ran right on top of each other in order to create a natural rub.
Here, Tre’Quan Smith (top of screen) and Garrett Griffin will run the crossers, with Griffin being the underneath receiver. Michael Thomas (top of screen, inside Smith) will run a corner route and fullback Zach Line will run a flat route. The corner, flat, and Griffin’s crossing route will create a triangular read for Drew Brees. His first read will be Thomas on the corner route, but he is covered. Next, he’ll move his eyes to Zach Line in the flat, who is also covered.
His third read in the triangle will be Griffin, who is left wide open due to the rub created by the crossers. As you can see in the play above, Marcus Peters takes himself and safety John Johnson III out of the play when they collide into each other. This takes away Griffin’s trail man (Johnson) and he is able to keep running his route until Brees finds him for his first NFL touchdown.
Garrett Griffin wasn’t the only Saints player to nab their first receiving touchdown in the NFL. Swiss army knife Taysom Hill was able to score a touchdown on a play that the Saints had used multiple times in the past—the shield screen.
Typically this play will go to Michael Thomas, but here Payton designs it for Taysom Hill, who has the strength to break tackles near the goal line.
The offense will come out in 11 personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end (Taysom Hill)) and a 2x2 set (2 receivers on each side of the formation). Brees will motion Hill across the formation which creates a trips look with three receivers towards the right side of the field.
At the snap, receivers Austin Carr and Tre’Quan Smith will block for Hill, thus creating the “shield” part of the play. Hill will take a step inside and Brees will quickly throw him the ball. Hill will now follow the blocks or “shield” of the other receivers and lower his shoulder to break Aqib Talib’s tackle attempt.
Stat of the Day: With touchdown passes to TE Garrett Griffin and QB Taysom Hill, Brees threw a touchdown pass to nine different undrafted free agents this season, including the playoffs, which is the most in the common draft era (since 1967). pic.twitter.com/J3M3eb0vYT— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) January 23, 2019
While the blown call at the end of regulation could have changed the outcome of this game, it wasn’t the only missed opportunity for the Saints.
Early in the first quarter, tight end Dan Arnold had a chance to put the team up by 7 points, which possibly could have made the missed pass interference call irrelevant.
The offense comes out in shotgun with 11 personnel. Brees will motion Thomas from the outside to the slot, with corner back Talib following him and the safety cheating down to help double team the receiver.
This leaves Arnold one-on-one with linebacker Mark Barron while he runs his seam route down the hash marks. Able to gain outside leverage, Brees puts the pass in the perfect spot for the tight end: high and outside.
Arnold goes up and attempts to corral the pass, but is unable to secure it as he falls to the ground. The Saints will kick a field goal on the next play, gaining only three points instead of a possible seven.
While this game will be in New Orleans folklore for years to come due to the no call, the team had opportunities to put the game away in other situations.
This team is full of young players who will contribute for the foreseeable future, and while our draft picks are limited this year, the draft class is deep at some positions of need.