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Revisiting the Saints dominant November of 2018

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One of the greatest 3 game stretches in NFL history.

Philadelphia Eagles v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Eventually, the fun will end. 13 years of the Drew Brees-Sean Payton Era is above and beyond what anyone should reasonably expect an elite quarterback and coach combination to be together for. Yet, somehow year 13 was just as good as the prime years of Drew Brees’ career. 2018 saw a New Orleans offense rank once again among the elites of the NFL and nothing was better than a 3 game stretch where the Saints obliterated the Rams, Bengals an Eagles back-to-back-to-back.

45-35, 51-14, 48-7.

Since the NFL merger in 1970, there have been 9 teams that have scored over 40 points in 3 consecutive games.

You’ll also notice the 4 games in a row streak that the unbelievably underrated 2011 Saints team had at the end of the season and into the playoff game against Detroit.

If you get more specific, there have only been 3 teams to score 45 points or more in a game for 3 consecutive games.

It’s one of the best stretches in NFL history. Brees went 69/91 (76%) for 974 yards with 11 touchdowns and, of course, he didn’t throw any interceptions. Alvin Kamara took 44 carries for 209 yards (4.75 YPC) and 4 touchdowns while adding 9 catches for 117 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air. Mark Ingram went off as he rushed for 240 yards on only 38 carries and scored twice on the ground and once through the air. Michael Thomas caught 24 balls on 27 targets for 373 yards and 4 touchdowns.

The Saints scored 10 offensive touchdown from outside the opponents 10 yard line in those 3 games so I wanted to rank them all and reminisce

#10 - Play Action to Ben Watson

The Saints isolate the tight end, Watson, in a “nub” formation on the short side of the field. The goal is probably to get less players around him as he tries to slip out after faking his block and dashing to the end zone. The Saints are going to show a full outside zone look to the field with a lead from Zach Line before Brees gives an empty hand to Mark Ingram. We kinda get lucky that #50 doesn’t attack Brees right away, instead he’s a little out of control with his steps. You can see he steps back with his right foot first instead of pushing off and attacking to his right. Then he gets his feet caught up underneath himself. This gives Brees just enough time to flip around and throw a nice over the shoulder ball for Watson.

#9 - Crack Toss to Kamara

This is a concept we don’t see the Saints run that much these days. Used to be one of Darren Sproles best runs (however with Sproles they ran it almost exclusively to the weakside). We can see how the nifty motion from Josh Hill allows this play to work. By Hill motioning outside of Tre’Quan Smith at first and then coming in just before the snap, #26 is aligned too far outside to “crack-replace” and fill on the outside shoulder of Hill. He’s late and Smith can at least get a piece of him. Terron Armstead is free to pull into space and the hesitation move by Kamara is bellisimo.

#8 - Glance Post to Smith

Brees takes his drop back looking to his left. The safety on the boundary hash doesn’t budge as Brees looks at him so the quarterback knows he should work the other side because the post from Thomas will be covered by the safety. As Brees moves his eyes to the left for the Smith and Carr’s route combination, he doesn’t know if the man who is covering Carr is in zone or man, so he has to wait for that player to declare himself underneath on Carr’s pivot route. Once he does, the glance post is open and Brees delivers a tight window throw for the touchdown.

#7 - Weakside Option to Kamara

Normally on the weakside option concept, Brees will read the Mike to see which side he throws to. You can see the Mike open pretty hard to the weak side and Michael Thomas’ route enter where the Mike used to be. Brees bypasses this read and goes directly to the weak side when he gets a pretty good man coverage diagnosis pre-snap. Because it’s man, he knows if Kamara runs the out route, there won’t be any defender able to trap that route. Easy pickens’.

#6 - Duo Run to Ingram

The Saints love running “duo” which is a sort of half-man, half-zone run scheme where there are 2 double teams on the interior. They love it with Ingram and they love running it to away from the slot receiver side. The duo run can bounce outside easily so by running it to the “closed” side, it will bounce to a defensive back and often times a cornerback. Now Ingram is 1v1 against a smaller player. In this case, the fake jet motion by Kamara takes a whole bunch of Eagles away from where the play is going. Malcolm Jenkins is probably the main culprit and it allows Ingram to bounce the run and have a clear path to the end zone.

#5 & 4 - Fade to Thomas and Kamara

I’m putting these together because they are both indictments of Jim Schwartz’ horrendous game plan to corral both of the Saints electrifying talents. To keep things short, Schwartz was without a boatload of capable defensive backs and decided that he would double team Kamara or Thomas or both on pretty much every play and only rush 3 or 4 guys. This led to huge plays by every other Saints receiver and, still, Brees was able to find his top 2 receivers for big plays. The Thomas one is especially great because the safety who is on the hash closest to Thomas, runs over a bit after the snap and still doesn’t get over top.

#3 - Screen to Ingram

This is a concept the Saints have run previously. Payton loved to get the ball to Ingram on screen passes after a lot of backfield action. In this case, we have a fake jet motion by Kamara and true play action fake to Ingram. Michael Thomas’ gravity takes the cornerback and safety out of the play. Why I have this ranked so high is the spin move at the end of the play that gets Ingram in the end zone. At this point, the Bengals defense clearly just wanted to go home.

#2 - Bender Seam to Michael Thomas

The Bengals were one of the few teams that lived a little bit in a 2-high safety world so when the Saints got a turnover and the ball on the Bengals 17 with 8 seconds to go, you had to know the Bengals were gonna play some sort of 2 high structure. The end up playing Cover 6 (quarter-quarters-half). Theoretically you want to be in 2-high the cover seam routes (the route Thomas runs on this play) but the Bengals are too soft here and the Thomas-Brees connection is too clean. With the Saints lining up Thomas and Kamara to the weak side, the Bengals are thinking that the weak side option route by Thomas is going to be run. You can see the cornerback and the Will linebacker trying to trap that option route inside-out. Thomas just runs right by the Will on his seam route. When he gets passed him, since the safety is over top of him, Thomas knows he can’t just run straight into him. The adjustment is to “bend” the route inside. Pitch and catch.

#1 - Hoss Y-Juke to Michael Thomas

This is the same concept that the Patriots used to win the Super Bowl against Los Angeles. Saints running it here a few weeks prior. Not a concept the Saints use very often but it’s popped up here and there. Brees gets a pretty good man coverage indicator when he motions Ingram out of the backfield and the linebacker, #58, follows. Pre-snap, the only deep safety that can potentially get on top of Thomas’ slot fade route, #43, is lined up outside the opposite hash mark. Brees takes the snaps and eyes that side of the field quickly. When that safety stays on that side of the field, Brees trusts Thomas will win his 1-on-1 and delivers a great ball.

Los Angeles Rams v New Orleans Saints Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images