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Ups and downs from Saints vs. Colts

Which players are on the rise and what is the team still struggling with?

New Orleans Saints v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints got back to .500 on Sunday with a huge win over the Indianapolis Colts. The offense had their best game of the season putting up 38 points in exciting fashion. The Saints are coming out of a slump being losers on four of their last five games going into Sunday’s week eight matchup but will return to the Superdome for week 9 with a chance to get above .500 facing a potential Justin Fields-less Chicago Bears.

Up: Offense

Quarterback Derek Carr and the offense have been the face of criticism for the Saints’ problems as they’ve struggled to score over 20 points in 2/7 games going into their matchup with the Colts. On Sunday, the offense looked brand new. Quarterback Derek Carr had his best performance as a member of the Saints throwing 19/27 for 311 yards and 2 touchdowns. Carr’s best target of the day was second-year wide receiver Rashid Shaheed who showed up in the big moments. Shaheed had receptions of 44, 51, and a 58-yard touchdown. Carr has looked the speedster’s way in clutch moments this season and did again on Sunday. Shaheed made a 51-yard reception with three minutes remaining in the game that put the Saints in position to seal the game.

One of the key factors to Sunday’s win was finding success in the run game. The Saints ran the ball 36 times for 161 yards averaging 4.5 yards a carry. Running back Jamaal Williams was a ball of energy with his touches, accounting for 30 yards on only 6 carries, but it was Swiss army knife Taysom Hill who led the team with 63 yards rushing. Alvin Kamara had 110 scrimmage yards and 2 touchdowns continuing to be a threat to opposing defenses in both the run and receiving game. If the Saints want to replicate Sunday’s offensive performance, they will need to prove they could consistently run the football and open up the playbook for offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael.

Up: Jordan Howden

The Saints were high on rookie safety Jordan Howden during training camp, and he has lived up to the hype. Howden got the start today over veteran Marcus Maye who was active but dealing with an illness. Howden’s coverage skills have shown to be pro-level and he offers quick run defense. The Minnesota product had 8 total tackles, 4 solo, and a pass deflection on Sunday. With Howden’s quick development, the Saints may look to deal Maye before Tuesday’s trade deadline.

Down: Run defense

The Saints’ run defense was bad on Sunday to say it nicely. The Colts ran the ball 24 times for 164 yards averaging 6.8 yards a carry. Running back Jonathan Taylor ran for 82 yards on 7 carries in the first half, but the Saints had Taylor’s number in the second half allowing only 13 yards on 5 attempts, however, Colts running back Zack Moss took over in the second half ending the game with 11 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown. Indianapolis quietly has one of the best offenses in the league, but allowing nearly seven yards a carry is a big issue no matter who you're facing. The run defense was a concern coming into the season and remains a concern through the mid-season mark.

Down: The Carr to Olave connection

Second-year wide receiver and quarterback Derek Carr seem like they could never get on the same page. In back-to-back plays against the Colts, Carr and Olave couldn't connect on what would've been big gains and potentially a touchdown. On the initial play, Olave executed his route perfectly only to lose sight of the ball and miss the easy reception. On the very next play, Olave broke open on a crosser, but Carr puts the ball high, and it falls incomplete. Carr and Olave were both heavily criticized during the Saints’ Thursday Night Football matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars where Carr chewed out Olave for slowing down at the top of his route and Carr forced the ball out of bounds. The Saints’ offense has been stagnant for the most part of the season, the non-existent connection between Carr and Olave is a big contributor to that.

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