If you were expecting an explosive first start to the 2023 season for the Saints, you were mistaken. But did they get it done? Yes, they did!
The team started the game immediately turning the ball over during the opening kickoff when Rashid Shaheed fumbled taking the ball out of the endzone.
Offensively, the team displayed an underwhelming performance not scoring a touchdown until late in the 3rd quarter. The team struggled mightily in the run game only gaining 69 yards in 27 rush attempts. This along with the inability to pass protect for much of the game sent this offense into panic mode rather quickly (4 sacks allowed, tons of pressures). However, they did make enough plays to win the game in the end.
Quarterback Derek Carr struggled in certain points in this game throwing an interception in the red zone during a two-minute drill, as well as failing to capitalize on most of their other trips in that area. To make up for that though, Carr made a clutch throw when the team needed it most, a 41-yard throw-and-catch to Rashid Shaheed to help seal the game. Carr finished 23/33, 305 yards passing and a lone touchdown in his Saints debut.
Chris Olave started off slow but came to do what we expected him to do. The 2nd-year star caught 8 of his 10 targets for 112 yards, including a 45-yard catch and run. Rashid Shaheed made up for his big mistake early on catching 5 of his 6 targets for 89 yards and the teams only touchdown. Michael Thomas started off hot catching a 25-yard pass from Carr on the first pass of the game and was targeted heavily for the rest of that drive. He finished with 5 catches for 61 yards on the day.
The run game was one of the more disappointing aspects about this game as the team couldn’t get anything going. Jamaal Williams carried the ball 18 times for just 45 yards, an average of just 2.5 yards.
The pass protection for the day was just as bad if not worse. Left tackle Trevor Penning in particular was a victim of multiple sacks and pressures throughout the day and was a major liability on offense. The team was unable to use play-action or work the vertical passing game due to the limited amount of time for the QB. This is something that can become a major problem going forward.
Luckily for the Saints, the defense bailed the offense out big time with an unbelievable showing. As a team, the Saints allowed just 285 yards of offense and zero touchdowns. The secondary especially showed out forcing 3 interceptions to hold the Tennessee offense (Lattimore, Maye, Adebo with 1 each). The team did a great job of getting the Titans off the field on third down as they only converted on 2 of their 12 opportunities. The defensive line also had a hell of a game getting to the QB four times and forcing errant throws all day long (Jordan, Werner, Bresee with .5 sack, Granderson with 1.5 sacks). They were also able to contain the run game pretty for the most part aside from a few bigger runs early in the game.
Aside from Shaheed’s mishap, the special teams played a huge part in this game. Zack Baun was able to block a punt early in the game to set up a field goal. Rookies Blake Grupe and Lou Hedley showed up as well. Grupe connected on all three of his field goal attempts including a 52-yarder that might’ve been good from 63. Hedley averaged 48 yards per punt on five attempts including landing one inside the 20. A great sign for the two young players.
The team will travel to Carolina later this week for a Monday night matchup against the Panthers. They will have to play better offensively if they want to not only win this game and make a push for the postseason. Hopefully, they can figure it out sooner or later.
- Carl Granderson looks like he’s putting it all together
- Defensive backs all looked extremely solid, created turnovers
- Demario Davis and Pete Werner are still an elite duo
- Offensive line looked very shaky at times, Penning in particular
- Running game needs a lot of work
- Some offensive creativity (Olave out the backfield was effective)
- Need answers in the red zone (Taysom? Juwan? Mike T? Jimmy?)