It isn’t often that Week 3 of an NFL season causes so much angst for a fanbase. That’s exactly where New Orleans Saints fans seemingly found themselves after the first 2 games. After watching their team dismantle the Green Bay Packers in Week 1, they saw the Carolina Panthers give the Saints a taste of their own medicine in Week 2. This left Saints fans scratching their heads on which team is the one we’d be likely to see most of the season. Add to the fact that the Saints were playing in a place they had not won at since 1995 and the thought of being below .500 stared the Saints directly in the face.
The Saints answered the call with a wire to wire 28-13 victory. Riding an aggressive and opportunistic defense, the Saints stifled the New England Patriots most of the day. They ensured rookie quarterback Mac Jones never really got comfortable all day. On offense, Jameis Winston and company were able to make enough plays to come away with the victory. Here are a couple of my biggest takeaways.
Health is Wealth
The NFL is a no excuse league, but context matters when analyzing things on the football field. The Saints went into that Carolina game without their top 2 wide receivers, starting center, starting defensive end, starting linebacker, starting cornerback and nickel safety. Not to mention they were without 8 assistant coaches due to Covid protocols. The truth is the Panthers did win that game, but what would that Saints team look like closer to full strength? Maybe closer to the one we saw Sunday.
While the Saints still didn’t have their full complement of players, the ones who returned made a huge impact. There was Pro Bowl cornerback Marshon Lattimore who had 10 tackles and an interception, C.J. Gardner-Johnson who had 5 tackles, a pass deflection, 2 tackles for loss and a sack. Finally there was Tanoh Kpassagnon, who wasn’t included in the list I mentioned above but did miss the Carolina game as well, who had 2 tackles and a sack at a crucial time that killed a Patriots drive. How much stronger will this team look once All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas returns? What about Pro Bowl kicker Wil Lutz? (He needs to return ASAP considering the struggles the Saints had in the kicking game). You can add starting center Erik McCoy to this list as well and say this Saints team should be a force to be reckoned with once they are healthy.
Give Kamara the ball
File this under I know Captain Obvious, but the truth of the matter is you have to find a way to get your best offensive weapon some touches. The Saints failed to do so against Carolina and quickly fell behind and never recovered. They atoned for this grave mistake by feeding Kamara early and often. The all versatile running back got touches on 7 of the Saints first 14 plays, the last of which led to a Saints early touchdown and they never looked back. Kamara finished the game with 118 all purpose yards and a score.
More than what he can do with the ball is the attention he forces the defense to have on him when he’s on the field. This will be key until Michael Thomas can return as the Saints lack multiple playmakers on the offensive side. Allowing Kamara to get touches and success early will open the door for others to make plays later as the defense tries to hone in on him. If you have a big gun like Kamara, you need to fire it off whenever you can.
These were just a couple of my observations about Sunday’s game. What did you notice about the game? Sound off in the comment section below. The Saints finally return home to take on the New York Giants in the Caesars Superdome.
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