That’s how a good team bounces back.
It was still a roller coast of a game, though, with plenty of “Ups” and “Downs” along the way, though. Here are a few that stood out:
Up: the replacements
The Saints are a good team, but it would not have shocked anyone if they lost against a talented Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense after getting manhandled last week by the Atlanta Falcons. They were down their best cornerback and one of the anchors of the defense, a starting guard, and the NFL’s top return specialist.
Eli Apple was exceptional as the team’s #1 corner this game, and PJ Williams played surprisingly well as the #2 cornerback outside. The duo held Mike Evans and Chris Goodwin, one of the better wide receivers duos in the league, to only seven combined catches, with most of those coming later in the game when the outcome was already decided.
Nick Easton filled in admirably for Andrus Peat, possibly calling into question Peat’s long-term future in New Orleans. The refs didn’t call Easton’s name once, not for any holds, false starts, or sacks given up.
Overall, the replacements played well.
Down: the Hills
The only replacement who didn’t have a great game was Taysom Hill filling in for the injured Deonte Harris on kickoff returns. On the opening kickoff of the game, Taysom muffed the kick and was able to recover it himself in front of his own goal line, but he was eventually downed inside the fifteen yard line. Then, on the opening drive of the game, Taysom came in for his first snap at quarterback only to give up a sack that set the Saints up with a third-and-long in a critical situation. Fortunately, the Saints immediately picked up ten yards on back-to-back neutral zone infraction penalties and Wil Lutz made a long field goal, but Taysom’s sack nearly took those points away.
Also in the game, Josh Hill left the game due to a concussion. Hill has suffered concussion multiple times in his career, so this is obviously concerning for Hill’s long-term health. Fortunately for the Saints, Jared Cook had his first big game for the Saints on offense, but the absence of Josh Hill at tight end was definitely felt in the play-calling.
Up: Demario Davis
Demario Davis is the best Saints linebacker since Jonathan Vilma, and at this point, the question right now is which former New York Jets linebacker was better for New Orleans?
Davis has been a godsend for Dennis Allen and the Saints defense, and just as the broadcast booth was praising Davis in saying that the league doesn’t talk about his level of play enough, he made an athletic play for an interception early in the game. In all, Davis tied for the team lead in total tackles yet again and was constantly around the ball, either jumping in for the interception or putting pressure in the face of Jameis Winston to force other bad throws.
Up: Marcus Williams
It’s taken a while, but Marcus Williams might finally be putting the Minneapolis Miracle behind him. For the first time since his rookie year, it truly feels like the Saints have a legitimate roamer in center field who can make plays on the ball for interceptions. In fact, Williams recorded an interception in back-to-back games against the Bucs and the Falcons, taking this one to the house for a pick-six to seal the game late.
With Marshon Lattimore forced to miss the game due to an injured hamstring, it was going to take the rest of the defense to step up and make plays. And make plays Marcus did.