It was as advertised.
The Saints put a ton of pressure on the Falcons mostly from the defensive front. In addition, the offense showed a commitment to the run while displaying its normal aerial artistry. Fans of the Black and Gold have to be rejoicing on the overall effort of their ballclub.
Let's keep the momentum rolling while highlighting things to be aware of this week.
Opening weekend couldn't have gone any better for the Saints. Not only did they hand the division favorite Atlanta Falcons a loss, but the other two teams in the division lost as well.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost a heartbreaker on the road to the New York Jets, in a game that saw them winning with under a minute to go. Quarterback Josh Freeman stayed under duress, similar to how the Saints had Falcons QB Matt Ryan.
New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, brother of Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, sent a myriad of exotic blitzes that couldn't be figured out by the Tampa coaching staff and offensive line alike. With the Saints traveling to Tampa in Week 2, expect a similar game plan from the Saints defense.
The Carolina Panthers looked inept on offense as compared to previous years. The Panthers are undergoing a bit of a schematic change—after the loss of offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski—as new coordinator Mike Shula implements more of an insipid offense. The Panthers' 12-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks supports that theory.
As you can see, the Saints had a slew of injuries preceding the tilt with the Falcons. In addition to Isa Abdul-Quddus and Glenn Foster, outside linebacker Martez Wilson was a surprise pregame scratch. Considering how well the defense performed with just two outside linebackers available for the game, the staff has to be salivating at the thought of getting Wilson back for the game against Tampa.
The Saints came out of the Falcons game with a few injuries to players who play key supporting roles. In addition to starting nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley and reserve corner Patrick Robinson, defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker was forced to leave game play with a leg injury.
The injury to Walker may be the most prominent. Rookie nose tackle John Jenkins filled in quite admirably for Bunkley, and Robinson wasn't having that good of a game before his injury. If Robinson is a scratch against Tampa, expect second-year corner Corey White to receive the majority of his reps.
Fans are holding their breath for the return of Foster, as he was the most impressive player in the preseason on a stacked defensive line. The combination of Cameron Jordan, Akiem Hicks and Foster could be one of the most potent in the entire NFL.
Things to Improve Upon
It's hard to argue the fact that the offensive line may have been the worst unit this past weekend. Quarterback Drew Brees was under constant pressure, and the between-the-tackles run game looked suspect—to put it mildly. One of the plays that stood out happened early in the game.
In the first quarter, on a 4th-and-1, Sean Payton decided to go for it. This was a statement that was meant to establish physical dominance. Well, physical dominance did ensue...
Here we have a simple off-tackle run to the strong side of the formation. Payton brought in an extra lineman, which added more emphasis to the physicality. Readers should take notice of where the original line of scrimmage was.
Look at how quick the line of scrimmage was disbanded! The Falcons defensive line is now practically in the backfield. I know a lot of people like to blame Mark Ingram for most of the struggles in the run game, but I think more blame should be spread throughout the offense, mainly the offensive line.
Even if Ingram wanted to bounce it outside, the Falcons have set the edge and have a linebacker running as a free rusher. Not only did they blow up the line, but they also stayed true to their gap responsibilities. This play had no chance.
Complete carnage. The Saints were blown back into the backfield, establishing that the Falcons were going to be the more physical team at the point of attack. This reverberated through much of the game.
If the Saints want to continue their vertical pass-attack dominance, they will need the threat of the run. Looking forward to the game against Tampa, the run may be even more imperative.
In 2012, Tampa was the No. 1 team in run defense; it wants to force teams to pass against a revamped secondary. The Saints can't afford to play into its game plan.
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Screenshots via NFL Game Rewind.