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Ups and downs from Saints vs. Patriots

Who is on the rise and what issues does the team need to address?

New Orleans Saints v New England Patriots Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

The New Orleans Saints beat the New England Patriots in impressive fashion. New Orleans shut New England out in a 34-0 win. The Saints’ offense looked like they finally got the ball rolling scoring 27 points, thanks to the defense setting them up with good field position. Before kick-off, a report came out that offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael may be on the hot seat if the offense couldn't perform to expectation, and it looks like, at least for now, Carmichael’s job is safe.

Up: Kamara and Miller

The offense missed running back Alvin Kamara during his three-game suspension, and on Sunday he showed why. Kamara had 97 scrimmage yards and a touchdown on 22 carries and three receptions. The five-time Pro Bowl running back’s 73rd career touchdown passed former Saints’ wide receiver Marques Colston’s record for all-time touchdowns in franchise history.

Kamara’s return to the offense is a huge addition, but his biggest impact is his leadership. Kamara has stood up and been open about the offense’s slow start and how things need to change. Kamara is entering his seventh year with New Orleans and has become a leader for them. The seven-year veteran has also been a big mentor to rookie running back Kendre Miller.

Kendre Miller had his best game as a pro racking up 90 scrimmage yards on 12 carries and four receptions. When the Saints drafted Miller, they wanted to mold him into a dual threat back that could hurt the defense in both the running and receiving game. The TCU product was already an excellent ball carrier, but how effective he could be in the receiving game was questionable coming out of college. Miller showed he could have a big impact as a pass catcher when he turned his four receptions into 53 yards and looked sharp with the ball in his hands.

Up: Offensive line

The offensive line has taken heavy criticism in the first quarter of the season, deservingly so as they allowed 15 sacks in four games, but on Sunday the line looked to clear their name. Quarterback Derek Carr was sacked twice against New England, although only one should be blamed on the pass blocking as it was due to excellent coverage by the Patriots' secondary. Young left tackle Trevor Penning has improved every game since he struggled heavily in his week one start. Penning has also been given help at the start of the snap helping him in his pass protection. Guard Cesar Ruiz, who missed the Saints’ week four matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a concussion, returned to the starting lineup and was part of the team's impressive pass-blocking on Sunday. All in all, there is still room for improvement, but the offensive line we saw on Sunday is night and day compared to week one against the Tenessee Titans.

Up: Blake Grupe

The decision to go with rookie undrafted free agent Blake Grupe over longtime Saints kicker Wil Lutz still seems to bother some fans. Grupe is 11-12 on the season with his only miss being a critical 46-yard attempt that would've given New Orleans the lead in the final minute against the Green Bay Packers in week three. This miss seemed to make doubters out of Grupe wondering if he had the leg to kick 45+ yards, on Sunday Grupe did just that...twice. The rookie out of Notre Dame was 2-2 on field goals and 4-4 on his extra point attempts against New England. Grupe’s first field goal of the day was a 54-yard attempt from the right hash and his second field goal was a 53-yard attempt up the middle.

Down: Penalties

Coming into Sunday’s matchup with New England, New Orleans has had seven penalties in three out of four games this season. Sunday was no different. The Saints had 12 penalties for 86 yards. These mistakes didn't make a big difference in Sunday’s matchup, but having a penalty problem is not a good problem to have. These mistakes often end offensive drives which have contributed to the Saints' offensive struggles. The coaching staff needs to work to lower these numbers as they have major implications in close games and could even be the deciding factor on whether they win or lose.

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