An ugly win is still a win in the NFL. That’s what the New Orleans Saints are telling themselves after their 13-10 win in Seattle on Monday night. Much of the game was an offensive struggle for both teams that finally, maybe even mercifully ended in a victory and a 4-2 record heading home for a big division showdown with the Bucs. Here are a few of my takeaways from the game.
In past takeaway pieces I’ve harped on the slow starts for the Saints and this game was no different. Once again they failed to score in the 1st quarter (3rd time this season) and in 4 of their first 6 games have only scored a first quarter touchdown in 2 of those games. The bigger issue I saw was the lack of a running game especially against that defense. The Seahawks came into the game having given up the 3rd most rushing yards in the league and the Saints only managed 94 yards on 31 attempts. That’s an anemic 3 yards a carry which would be dead last in the NFL if extrapolated over the full season. Knowing the weather conditions would be conducive for a grind it out game it was disappointing to see the Saints not impose their will. This trend has been pointing downward as the Saints are 24th in the league in yards per attempt at 3.9 and have only had one 100 yard rusher this season. If this team has postseason aspirations, they will have to do a better job running the football.
The anchor of this team all year has been it’s defense. Except for one baffling 4th quarter against the Giants and this unit has been dominant for much of the season. The team is top 10 in points allowed per game, yards allowed per game, total takeaways, opponents 3rd down conversion percentage, and is the number 1 Red Zone defense in the league. This was on full display Monday night as they stifled the Seahawks from start to finish. If you take away Seattle’s lone touchdown pass of 85 yards to DK Metcalf where Lattimore slipped and fell while Marcus Williams took a bad angle, then you can see how menacing this defense was that night. Take that yardage away and the Seahawks only manage 134 yards of total offense and 3 points. That one pass by itself accounted for over half of the total passing yards Seattle had for the game. Even putting those yards back in the stats and Saints only surrendered 219 total yards of offense, while managing to get 5 sacks, and holding Seattle to 3 of 12 on 3rd down conversions. This defense has consistently been the backbone of this team and will have to continue to be that in order for this team to succeed.
Paging All Wide Receivers
The Saints wide receiving corps is a mess currently. They played the game Monday night with only 1 receiver who had caught a touchdown pass this year. While the Saints anxiously wait the return of All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas and speedster Deonte Harris from injury, the Saints are at a complete deficit on the outside. As it stands now, the Saints have the 3rd fewest passing yards in the league (something that seems laughable in a Sean Payton offense) and sees it’s running back with the most receptions on the team. In fact, the Saints have only 1 receiver who has caught more than 10 passes so far this year. If the Saints continue to trend downward running the football, then the passing game will have to find it’s groove to sustain drives and keep it’s dominant defense rested on the sideline. Having Thomas and Harris return eventually will no doubt help some, but the Saints need to find ways now to improve their passing game.
These were a few observations I keyed on from the game. Let me know what stood out to you in the comment section below. The Saints host a big division matchup with the Tampa Bay Bucs this Sunday in the Cesar’s Superdome.
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