A professional but not perfect performance from the New Orleans Saints helped them to a 34-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. In a much better display on both offense and defense, the Saints started with a 20-0 lead then stopped any hope of a Bucs comeback with four interceptions of Jameis Winston including one returned for a score. The Saints looked more like the Saints we have seen all season, rather than last weeks shell of a team. As usual I will delve into some individual performances from the boys in black and gold.
Actually, another slow start on offense for the Saints with no Touchdown scored on their opening possession yet again. Two possessions only led to 6 points which was a worry before a defensive turnover left them in great field position. From then on it was clinical and as expected from the Black and Gold, dominating the time of possession and stars all stood out on Sunday.
When Alvin Kamara has 20 or more touches, the Saints win. So it proved again here with 122 scrimmage yards (75 off 13 rushes and 47 off 10 catches) but no scores this week. He appeared to be fully healthy so the full playbook of AK41 was open for business. He even got involved with punt returns, which I’m not a fan of but with Harris out there aren’t a great deal of options. One set up nice field position. It was a classic Kamara showing, catching dump offs, pitches and screens before adding those crucial yards after catch. On the ground he was slippery as ever, breaking tackles and weaving his way between defenders. With a very tight NFC playoff race, he will need to stay healthy for the duration.
I predicted before the game that Michael Thomas would be a standout, it was a pretty obvious take but he did step up to the plate and got involved in the form of 114 yards off 8 completions and a score. He used his physicality well and well as a beautiful catch and run for 41 yards. Thomas is still on the way for the record number of catches this season and on this showing, he will walk through the record barrier, backwards.
I’ve seen and heard a lot of comments about Drew Brees becoming “washed up” because he doesn’t take deep shots anymore. Now, although he clearly isn’t as strong as he once was, this doesn’t make him washed up. He is a perfect leader, game manager and accurate thrower. He doesn’t need to take deep shots. He has the weapons at his exposal to not need to throw it up and possibly get intercepted (see Winston, Jameis). All of the weapons are strong and fast gaining those yards after catches so it isn’t necessary, making the “washed up” take, irrelevant. 28 of 35 on Sunday for 228 and 3 more Touchdowns to his collection. Give me that over any 400+ for 2 TDs but 3 picks any day. We love you Drew.
A man who is clearly enjoying the return of Brees is Jared Cook. Another nice game for Cook this week. The box score of 2 catches for 33 yards and a TD isn’t what jumps out. It’s the way he went about his business. The TD catch was an excellent one in coverage, the other yards a crucial big catch and run. He blocks too allowing others to make plays. The more Brees and Cook play together, the more I believe we see from him on the field in both stats and all-round play.
I like the fact the Saints stuck with the run against the best run defense in the NFL. This meant both Kamara and Latavius Murray got carries. What Murray does best is grind down his opponents. 27 yards on 10 rushes is standout but it is a wear out number, tiring a Bucs defense that saw the field for 37 minutes of this game.
The offensive line was hugely improved today as well, in pass, run and general protection of Brees. Drew himself didn’t get sacked although Taysom Hill did when under centre for a snap (bad play design, some work, some don’t). The excellent All Saints Considered podcast (go listen to it!) discussed pregame whether it would be Nick Easton or Will Clapp filling in for the injured Andrus Peat at left guard. The Saints went with experience and it paid off. Easton slotted in to perfection and allowed the younger Clapp to continue his jumbo package role in the O-line.
FOUR interceptions for the Saints on the day, okay a couple of them were slightly fortunate but you have to be there to make the play and complete the turnover. The defense also created a lot of pressure on Winston, getting in his face on multiple occasions and completing 2 sacks.
One of the standout players of the year, although not always recognised is Marcus Williams. The first NFL pick-6 for Williams was the biggest highlight of his day, returning it for 55 yards for the score. That’s his 4th pick of the season and he has been outstanding this year after a tough second year in the black and gold. He currently holds an elite grade for safeties (according to PFF) Marcus was also a part of the first interception of the day, tackling OJ Howard as he tried to catch the ball behind his back. He also got 3 tackles and a pass defence, keep up the excellent work Marcus!
Flying here, there and everywhere once again was Demario Davis. The #ManOfGod had the presence of mind to jump forwards and intercept the ball when Marcus Williams hit the receiver hard enough for it to pop out. Davis was crucial in holding the Bucs to just 8 rushes (a franchise low) as they got nothing out of it. He also had 6 tackles and a career high 4 passes defended. Along with Cam Jordan he is a leader of this team and always gives his all. I cannot speak highly enough of him.
Speaking of Cam Jordan, he had another nice day with 1.5 sacks of Jameis Winston. Cam is currently sitting in 3rd place of the Saints all time sack leaders. Still, 34 behind club legend Rickey Jackson. Jordan was a thorn in the Bucs O-lines side all day creating a lot of pressure and forcing wayward throws by Winston. He could have had 5 sacks on another day.
I enjoyed seeing Kiko Alonso on the field more Sunday as well and he enjoyed it too. Alonso backed up Davis excellently also recording 6 tackles and a tip which was picked off. With Alex Anzalone being injured he has stepped into his role more and more over the weeks and looks an excellent addition to the team. Kiko actually had more defensive snaps than AJ Klein which surprised me but when a player is hot, keep him in.
There was also a lot of talk before the game about 2nd cornerbacks with Marshon Lattimore out. What did happen was a share between PJ Williams and Patrick Robinson, but PJ taking the lead role. Both played quite well in coverage and PJ even added a pick in the end zone to kill off any latent hope of a Bucs comeback late in the 4th quarter.
To close out the interceptions and stats sheet was the Saints other outstanding safety, Vonn Bell. Bell recorded his first career interception with a ball that was tipped by Alonso into his grateful hands to deny the Bucs any further points in the first half. Bell also shared a sack with Cam Jordan and had a pass defensed. The Saints safeties really are balling out at the moment and must be in the top three safety tandems in the league.
Wil Lutz was perfect with two FGs and all four of his extra points nailed.
Thomas Morstead nailed 3 punts on the day with two falling inside the 20.
Alvin Kamara had some nice returns in Deonte Harris’ absence but with him being such a key piece in the Saints offense I would rather he didn’t get involved in this.
I’ve not even mentioned the penalties that were incurred by the Saints across both the offense and defense but that’s because there were so many standout performances from them on the day. Still, they will need to be ironed out come the postseason as they will be even more crucial yards up for grabs. All in all, a good performance and much improved, it’s always so much more fun writing these on a victory Monday. Let’s hope it continues in same way next week against the Panthers.
Until next time……