Saints vs. Buccaneers: Takeaways from the Saints' 16-14 Victory over Tampa Bay
In what seemed like an episode of The Twilight Zone, the Saints defense kept the team in the game with quarterback Drew Brees struggling for the majority of it.
The Saints played right into Tampa's game plan due to their lack of commitment to the run. Tampa's defense swarmed Brees, forcing him into two interceptions, opposed to only one touchdown.
But when the Saints needed a play, the Brees-to-Marques Colston combination was in full effect. Connecting on a 31-yard pass, these two veterans set up the game-winning field goal.
The Saints are now 2-0 heading into next week's tilt with the Arizona Cardinals, but who would've thought it would be the offense that's in need of a little tweaking?
Here are my takeaways from this game.
As great of a team as the Saints are, they are by no means without flaws. For the Saints to advance in the playoffs, they will need to commit to a run game. Being one-dimensional allows teams to key on what you're trying to do with your scheme and tailor their game plan to that.
Despite the fact that the Saints were winning most of the game, they ran the ball only 20 times for 75 yards. By comparison, Tampa ran the ball 33 times for 160 yards.
As I stated in my game preview, the Saints needed to run the ball in an effort to limit mistakes. Tampa's plan was to render the Saints one-dimensional by stopping the run, which in turn opens up its blitz packages. The Saints helped them out with that plan by not even trying.
Fans are claiming that head coach Sean Payton is rusty; I think he's stubborn.
As a former QB, his priority is to throw the ball first and foremost. I think he wants to author the greatest passing game in NFL history, and his time off last season—due to suspension—has made him even more thirsty for that type of recognition.
Hopefully, he gets it together.
Mark Ingram Is Missing Something
When the Saints drafted Mark Ingram, I was under the impression they had just acquired a franchise running back with power, agility and great instincts. I'm just now realizing they got a scatback who's stiff and goes down when you breathe on him.
Actually, calling him a scatback is an insult to a player like Darren Sproles (5'6", 190 lbs) who routinely powers through tackles. So far this season, Ingram looks like "Tarzan" (5'9", 215 lbs) but plays like "Jane" (17 carries for 31 yards).
The Saints have trusted him twice to get one yard on a 4th-and-1. Let's just say the opposing defense is undefeated like Floyd Mayweather against him.
When Ingram tried to run over Tampa safety Dashon Goldson and got stood up instead of beating him to the outside on 4th-and-goal, his time in a Saints uniform should've have been over as soon as he got back to the bench.
It's time for running backs Travaris Cadet and Khiry Robinson to get a chance. Could they be any worse than Ingram?
Jimmy Graham Is the Best Tight End in the NFL
We can stop the speculation. Jimmy Graham is the very best tight end in the league. His athleticism, catch radius and speed separate him from the pack. At 6'7", 265 pounds, there is not one single defender in the NFL who can stop Graham in 50-50 ball situations.
The fact that he runs a 4.53 40-yard dash, per NFLDraftScout.com, usually means he can run away from most defenders as well. Without his 10-catch, 179-yard performance—the Saints would've more than likely lost this game to Tampa. The ability to put his team on his back makes Graham all-world in my eyes.
We have to give kudos to general manager Mickey Loomis for having the foresight to draft Graham—despite very little production in college.
The Defense Is the Truth!
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan continues to make me look like a genius with his defensive prowess. Ryan has essentially taken the same defensive personnel from last season and made it a force to be reckoned with.
All defenders now fly to the ball, playing with a reckless abandon that hasn't been seen in New Orleans in a while.
I predicted Ryan would use more 4-3 in this game in an attempt to stop the run, and that's exactly what he did. This allowed inside linebackers Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne to fly to the ball while being covered up by four down linemen.
He used safety Kenny Vaccaro at an outside corner spot in certain situations and even dropped linemen into zones in an effort to confuse Tampa quarterback Josh Freeman.
It's hard to say anyone stood out on the defense in this game.
This is a great thing in my opinion. With the defense holding Tampa's offense to seven points (125 yards passing) and mostly everyone on the defense playing solid, one could come to the conclusion that this is a top-10 defense in the making.
The Screen Game
The Saints and the Baltimore Ravens are the two best teams at the screen game in the NFL—in my opinion. The Ravens remain committed to it; the Saints have seemingly gone away from it.
Pierre Thomas is the best in the league in the screen game; his ability to follow blocks while using his vision, agility and power is uncanny. When used in combination with Darren Sproles, that part of the Saints short game becomes virtually unstoppable.
With Tampa virtually living in the lap of Drew Brees most of the game, it wouldn't have been out of the realm of possibility to see over 10 screen passes in an effort to slow the rush.
This would've been as close as we would've gotten to seeing a run game.
Coming into the game, the Saints had a bevy of injuries throughout the roster; well, you can add a couple more players to the list. The loss of Patrick Robinson may be more important than people are realizing. Robinson's athleticism was needed at a myriad of positions. His ability to defend the slot as well as on the outside will be sorely missed.
The Saints may look to more four-safety looks with Vaccaro and Malcolm Jenkins essentially playing corner. This puts more pressure on young corners Corey White and Rod Sweeting to function in a complex defense.
In addition, defensive lineman Tom Johnson was hurt, joining fellow 5-technique Glenn Foster on what some would call a M.A.S.H unit.
Luckily, Rob Ryan likes to empty the roster in an attempt to get everyone playing time. The next-man-up theory is in full effect in New Orleans.