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Film Study: Saints pass defense shines vs Patriots

Turns out having all of your starters back is a good thing!

NFL: New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints bounced back after their Week 2 loss to the Carolina Panthers in the form of a 28-13 win over the New England Patriots. A big part of that win was the defense returning to their Week 1 form after the returns of Marshon Lattimore and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. With the secondary duo both out of the Week 2 contest injured, the Saints defense struggled to stop Sam Darnold (no really, stop laughing) and the Panthers offense. However with Lattimore and CGJ back, the Saints secondary played up to their potential again, proving that the defense is likely going to carry this team while Jameis Winston tries his best to not totally throw games away when the Saints do have the ball.

Marshon Lattimore wasn’t exactly given a herculean task this week, with most of his snaps coming against Patriots #1 receiver Nelson Agholor. Regardless, Lattimore was as good as ever, giving up just one catch to the former first round pick on five targets. Lattimore also found himself in coverage against Kendrick Bourne and JJ Taylor throughout the contest, and his final line showed just five catches allowed on nine targets for 42 yards, one pass-breakup and an interception on a pseudo Hail Mary on Mac Jones’s final pass of the game.

Saints Week 3 Coverage Stats

Defender Targets Receptions Yards PBU INT TD allowed Passer Rating Against
Defender Targets Receptions Yards PBU INT TD allowed Passer Rating Against
Malcolm Jenkins 10 5 43 1 1 0 22.1
Marshon Lattimore 9 4 42 1 1 0 19.0
Paulson Adebo 7 4 53 0 0 1 120.8
Chauncey C.J. Ceedy Duce Gardner-Johnson 6 3 39 1 0 0 70.8
P.J. Williams 3 3 23 0 1 0 59.0
Marcus Williams 1 1 6 0 0 0 91.7

The weekly coverage snaps chart tells us a few different stories. The first one being just how good Malcolm Jenkins was in coverage this week. He logged coverage snaps against six different Patriots receivers, with the most being against tight end Jonnu Smith, who logged zero (0) catches while Jenkins was in coverage against him, including Jenkins’s interception (please ignore how Jenkins actually intercepted this pass).

Jenkins didn’t just get lucky in this game, he was able to make some actual plays on Smith to keep him contained. While Smith does beat him on a crossing route across the middle, this pass from Jones lets Jenkins get back into the play, and Jenkins makes a good recovery to break up this deep pass on first down.

The lone issue in the Saints secondary was the rookie, Paulson Adebo. Adebo allowed 53 yards and four first downs (both numbers were team-highs) and surrendered the lone passing touchdown for the Patriots on the day on a 22-yard pass to Kendrick Bourne which brought the Patriots back to a one-possession game, giving New Orleans a scare before the Saints essentially sat on the Patriots as the game winded down.

Adebo was a bright spot for the Saints in the Week 1 clobbering of the Green Bay Packers. Since then, Adebo has allowed touchdowns in back-to-back games and a >100.0 passer rating in both. While his Week 1 performance still merits him being on the field, he’ll need to step up or risk losing his spot as the #2 cornerback to Bradley Roby, the late-preseason acquisition who only played two snaps in Sunday’s contest.

The Patriots lone TD was a bad play for Adebo, who fails to get his head around to find this early Mac Jones pass, gets beat by an admittedly good Kendrick Bourne adjustment, and then fails to bring down the receiver as he stumbles into the end zone. When you get pressure as quickly as Cam Jordan does on this play, it’s rarely expected to end positively for the offense. However, with Adebo failing to make a play here, the Patriots hit pay dirt as they attempted to mount a comeback.

One positive from this play is the aforementioned Cam Jordan. While Jordan didn’t record a sack in this game, he pressured Mac Jones nine times, hurried him six times and hit him three times. Those numbers will play any day of the week and all of the numbers listed doubled his season totals early in 2021. Jordan’s still looking for his first sack of 2021, but as long as he’s still hitting the QB like this, he’ll be just fine.

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