Up: Derek Carr
After 15 weeks, the Saints finally saw what they envisioned when they signed former Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Carr was exceptional against the Giants, completing 23/28 passes for 218 yards and 3 touchdowns, but it wasn't just the stats that looked good. Carr looked as if he regained confidence on Sunday when he made throws that he hesitated to make throughout the season.
The best example of a throw that Carr made on Sunday that he wouldn't have made earlier in the season was on 2nd & 8 during the offense’s second drive of the game. Carr hit tight end Juwan Johnson on an outside pass against good coverage and put it on the money.
Really liked this throw by Carr early in the game. Feels like he’s been hesitant to make these throws earlier in the season. pic.twitter.com/YzGlzZBYm9— Kyle ⚜️ | 504.Saints (@KyleBesson504) December 18, 2023
New Orleans implemented an additional day to work on Red Zone offense before last week's matchup against the Carolina Panthers, and although against weaker opponents, this additional day has shown to make a direct impact. In the team’s last three games, the offense is 9/10 in the Red Zone, however, maybe the realization that tight end Jimmy Graham is 6’8 helped in these cases.
The Saints are 9/10 in the Red Zone in their last three games.— John Hendrix (@JohnJHendrix) December 17, 2023
Up: Pass rush
The Saints were firing on all cylinders against the Giants. The offense had a good day, and the special teams performed well, but possibly the biggest factor in the game was the Saints’ pass rush. The defense ended the day with 7 sacks that accounted for a loss of 57 yards. Defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon accounted for 3 sacks while rookie defensive tackle Bryan Bresee recorded 2. The other two sacks came from defensive end Carl Granderson and linebacker Demario Davis.
Linebacker Zack Baun wasn't credited with any sacks on the day, but his impact was evident. Baun was used predominantly as a pass rusher during his college career, but when drafted by the Saints, his pass rush opportunity started to dwindle, and he was asked to be more of a coverage backer. Now the former Wisconsin Badger is getting his opportunity to rush the passer again and it's paying off.
Zack Baun got in there first, too. Another good showing from him as he gets more pass rushing snaps.— Ross Jackson (@RossJacksonNOLA) December 17, 2023
The Saints' defense has struggled to finish when it comes to rushing the passer, often allowing the quarterback to beat them on the ground. This still seems like a problem to be addressed as Giants quarterback Tommy DeVito ran the ball 4 times for 36 yards averaging 9 yards a carry, but this not being as severe of a case compared to the team’s past performances.
It’s hard to look back at the game and see much negativity. The offense started slow, and the team committed some pretty dumb penalties, but nothing dramatic.
The biggest down from Sunday’s game looks to be a problem around the NFL. Bad officiating.
Cornerback Alontae Taylor made a textbook tackle against Giants tight end Daniel Bellinger on a 3rd and 12. After a short wait, a flag came out and Taylor was penalized for unnecessary roughness. It was a physical and hard hit by Taylor, but a clean one. New York was then allowed to continue their drive which led to a field goal.
Officiating has been heavily criticized in the past two weeks. During Saturday’s Denver Broncos vs. Detroit Lions game, Denver was denied a touchdown due to an offsides penalty, the only problem with this call was nobody was offsides.
The called offsides here pic.twitter.com/dxzabCdBWL— Denver Broncos 365 (@DailyBroncos) December 17, 2023
As Saints fans know, officials aren't held accountable for the mistakes they make on gameday. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid were fined after expressing their thoughts about a penalty called against them during their loss to the Buffalo Bills in week 14. Although the flag against Kansas City looks to be the right call, the fines players and coaches receive when they critique the officiating creates fear in those who would like to stand up and hold officials accountable.