A storming second half performance by the New Orleans Saints beat the Buccaneers in Tampa, shutting them out in 2nd period and claiming the NFC South title for the second time in two seasons. The first half was one to forget for the Saints but a key play on special teams sparked the offense in to life after another solid performance for the defensive unit. After being 14-3 down in the game the Saints then scored 25 unanswered points to down the Bucs 28-14.
I wanted to have a look at some of the key players from that game on all 3 sides of the ball.
So THAT special teams play was a blocked punt by none other than 3rd string quarterback, Taysom Hill – the first blocked punt by a QB in NFL history. Mr Swiss Army Knife himself saw a clear route to the kicker, leaped and stretched himself out to block Bryan Anger’s kick and see the Saints recover the ball. This block gave the NOLA boys great field position to mount a drive and score their first touchdown on the day – A 1 yard pass from Drew Brees to Zach Line. Hill has been a revelation this season being utilized in so many ways to help the Saints in times of need and to bamboozle opposing teams. I’m expecting to see Hill used in more trick plays as we look ahead to the post season. Think fake punts, fake FGs etc. try not to let the opposition though yeah?
Another special team’s player who has been fantastic this year is Will Lutz. What a difference having a good kicker makes to a team. Lutz is becoming almost automatic only missing 1 FG all season long (25 of 26 which is 96.2%) and the offense can rely on him to produce when needed. In this game alone the Bucs kicker Santos missed 2 FGs which helped the score look a bit more pleasing on the eye for the Saints. Although he wasn’t as involved in this one as required I thought it would be good to highlight the contribution he makes to the team – especially when the standard of kicking this season has been down (Thank You Justin Tucker for that missed XP). Kickers are people too!
On to the defense and Cam Jordan. Another two sacks for big Cam with four solo tackles. Jordan started his 125th consecutive game meaning he has never missed a game! The DE now has 12 sacks on the season and is the leader of this defense. The unit has allowed only 14, 13, 17, 7 and 14 points against them in the last 5 weeks. If Cam and the rest of the unit can continue in this vain then the pressure will remain off the offense to continually put up huge points on the opponents every week. The pressure on the Bucs O-line was great throughout the game and this D-line is becoming a force to be reckoned with. A few missed tackles but overall a solid performance from Cam’s men.
Sheldon Rankins once again came up with a big sack chasing down Winston to grab his ankle and force him to the ground. Another notch on the belt for Rankins on the season with an additional 3 tackles (one solo) and a pass defended. Keep on shimmying Sheldon.
You can’t mention the defense and not have the weekly mention of Demario Davis with a team leading 8 tackles. Davis also defended a pass and continued his high intensity, aggressive play style which causes panic amongst opposing offenses. When the Saints acquired Davis during the offseason I don’t think anyone could have envisaged the impact he would have on this unit but he has really transformed the team to a stellar one. Raw speed and power are the name of Davis’ game, keep him healthy is essential for the stretch and the postseason.
The secondary improved in the second half after adjustments were made by the coaching staff. Eli Apple with a nice game not allowing much through the air and Marshon Lattimore recovered well with a forced fumble and then a pick at the end after being burned by Mike Evans early in the game.
The unit as a whole defended the run well as we are used to seeing now, holding the Bucs to just the 105 yards on the ground with only 29 allowed in the 2nd half.
To the offense and it seems strange to discuss the Saints offensively and not mention Drew Brees being the best player. Productive for Brees with 201 yards for 1 TD and a rushing TD himself but he did throw a poor interception. However, being the hall of famer that he is, he bounced back and lead the Saints to the win, using his favourite weapons in Thomas, Ingram and Kamara to great effect in the second. As soon as the Saints lined up for that 4th down attempt you knew he would be leaping and flying for that score. Such a brilliant play, so difficult to defend.
Speaking of offensive weapons, did you know that you Can’t Guard Mike? Yes Michael Thomas cannot be guarded as he proved once again with a nice day for 98 yards including one incredible catch where he was at full stretch, caught it, juggled it, caught it again and secured the ball, what a talent he is. Obviously he is the go to guy and the no.1 WR but others will need to show up with teams potentially using double or more coverage on him. Guys like Tommy-Lee Lewis who made a nice jump and grab for a first down, lovely leap by the receiver who is more vertically challenged than Thomas.
Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara came up better in the second half after being tied down during the first. Kamara went for 87 yards from scrimmage plus a 2 point play with Ingram running 52 yards (+1 through the air) and with a touchdown run where he overpowered and ran over all in sight. Ingram’s power is his key asset, once he gets rolling he can be unstoppable as he proved again. Kamara is well, a freak. He just makes everything look so easy, he running style makes it look as though he is jogging but boy he can move. Speed, agility, awareness are all key aspects of Kamara’s game. What an option to have on the field, he even returned on special teams for 76 yards off 3 returns.
It’s a team game, or a 3 teams in one game. If one isn’t firing then another can help them out and if they aren’t firing the 3rd can help them out. Obviously the emphasis is on one of the offense or defense to step up when it matters but as Sunday proved, one big play on special teams can spark all units in to life and completely change a game. Never underestimate the power that momentum swing has on a game – that blocked punt is a prime example of this.
Now let’s carry that momentum forward, win out, get that #1 spot (Thanks Bears) and make sure the road to the Superbowl goes through New Orleans and the Superdome.
Until next time.