Mercifully, the New Orleans Saints are preparing to capitalize on a divisional win and solo NFC South 1-0 record heading into Week 2 against the Las Vegas Raiders. While New Orleans’ decidedly strong 34-23 win against Tampa Bay left much to be desired on the offensive front, importantly, the rest of the team was firing on all cylinders – particularly special teams. The team effort did not go unnoticed; amongst several accolades to the big playmakers in Week 1, here’s what the Saints have to say heading into Week 2.
Payton very complimentary of the Saints defense and special teams— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) September 14, 2020
on the offense:
"That's as bad of a game that I have had as a play caller. Trying to find a rhythm and tempo. It was awful." pic.twitter.com/QtXCQZMFwr
As echoed by the talking heads on Twitter, Sean Payton was wholly unimpressed by his play calling against Tampa; more specifically, Payton pointed to New Orleans’ struggle to strike the right balance with the run game. To be fair, a large part of that can be attributed to the C performance by the offensive line, and it’s not as if the Saints absolutely failed offensively with 34 points.
“Yeah, it wasn’t so much the decision to run it was just some of the calls that if I had to do over again, would still be runs, but a different scheme. Look, we got a little bit more zone in some of those sub situations. Some of the runs were designed more for man. So, it wasn’t really the call of running the ball as much as the choice of what run and I just felt that it wasn’t really good on my part. I felt that way during the course of the game, and then even afterwards now after it.” – Sean Payton
Drew Brees concurred, turning the postgame conference into Who Critiqued Themselves Best. Outside of his deemed “awful” performance, Brees was quick to praise the field position awarded by special teams thrice over as a key factor in Sunday’s win.
“We felt like that would open up opportunities in the passing game. There was plenty of room to be more efficient. We weren’t as efficient with the passing game as I know, we can be as I want to be. But at the end of the day, we were the beneficiaries of good field position, from special teams blocking a kick making plays, defense, turnovers. So great. I think we felt like man, we were always had the momentum every time we stepped on the field, which is a good field [position situation].” – Drew Brees
Your top defender from Week 1 was the Jackrabbit himself!— PFF NO Saints (@PFF_Saints) September 14, 2020
Janoris Jenkins checked in with an 82.0 overall mark, highlighted by his huge pick-six of Tom Brady.#Saints #WhoDat
Playmaker of the hour CB Janoris Jenkins’ comments on the defense, and their mentality on the field this season, really illustrate a complete, mentally tough unit – very much a new feeling for Saints fans.
“We just settled in. Everybody came together, understanding that was our first game, everybody (stayed) together. (I) Told them though, keep your head up, keep playing, (it’s) just the first drive, just come out, stay composed, in the moment. And we did. We ran fast, played hard and got the victory.” – Janoris Jenkins
S Marcus Williams echoed a similar sentiment, importantly praising the safety net (pun very much intended) awarded by Marshon Lattimore and Jenkins to focus on #DoingHisJob.
“They lock up each and every play, they take one play at a time and being a safety back there, you not have to worry about much, especially when they are locking up each and every play and just having those two guys on the outside lane has given me time to roam back there and do my job. They do their job with no worries because that’s just what they do.” – Marcus Williams
LB Demario Davis bolstered the defensive credit, pointing to the solid lockdown on the line of scrimmage that welcomed Brady to the NFC South with three sacks and two interceptions.
“I don’t know if it’s underrated. It’s important to us. That is one of our main goals to win the line of scrimmage in the running game and the passing game. It’s important to make teams one dimensional. In general, to be a good defense, you have to have a great run defense. With our defensive line, it makes the work of the linebackers very easy. Then, we’ve got safeties and nickels who love to hit, so it’s important. We take pride. It’s a lot of work and preparation.” – Demario Davis
Week 1 Playmakers
The bells of Sunday’s ball were apparent: Janoris Jenkins and special teams. Accordingly, Jackrabbit received quite the praise from Payton and several players in postgame press conferences. Payton commented on what was likely the steal of 2019 with Jenkins; specifically, and this isn’t the first time it’s been mentioned, Jenkins’ natural playmaking instincts.
“He’s got great instincts and ball skills. He’s a smart player. He understands splits and routes and their concepts and with someone that, generally speaking, guys that are around the ball like that or find themselves around the ball like that are pretty intelligent because you have to be able to recognize formationally what plays you’re trying to take away and timely he hit that. He has really good hands. It’s not coincidence that he has those numbers.” – Sean Payton
Jenkins’ comments on his (first ever) pick-six point to a more more intentional defensive unit; it’s clear that the defense is playing quite anticipatorily and that the two interceptions on Sunday weren’t just gimmicks.
“Well, we knew they hadn’t ran it all game. And as we were watching film earlier during the week, we noticed that they like to run it. And me and Latt (Marshon Lattimore) was on the sideline talking to each other, telling each other what was going to come out in the second half. And in the second half of the first drive, that’s what they did, ran double out.” – Janoris Jenkins
Thanks to Margus Hunt and Bennie Fowler III, New Orleans received crucial field position (and crucial points off the board) as a result of their huge plays on special teams. RB Latavius Murray was quick to point to special teams’ performance as a cornerstone in Sunday’s win.
“I think defensively and special teams, I would say they really won that game for us. Offensively, we just didn’t play the way we know we can play. But that’s why there’s three phases in the game. And so, we’re not going to sit here and complain about a win. That’s why it’s the ultimate team sport. So defensively with Jack (Janoris Jenkins) scoring, special teams coming up big, giving us field position for those times that we we’re able to put the ball in the end zone (that’s just as important). So offensively, we know we can play better and we will. But that’s the game. There’s three phases to it and two of our other phases stepped up big to help us win the game yesterday.” – Latavius Murray
Finally, the most important takeaway from New Orleans’ postgame remarks was clear: free Choppa Style for Drew Brees.
“And you know, obviously they play stand up and get crunk and it was it was only at 75 decibels, right? Not at about 100 decibels like it normally is with everybody singing and dancing along with it. They didn’t do choppa style justice either. They had to keep that volume down too, which was disappointing. We wish that we had fans out there.” – Drew Brees
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