The New Orleans Saints are back to their winning ways after a 35-17 destruction of the Buffalo Bills. The Saints, coming off a bye week, looked rather sluggish for much of the first half but kicked in gear in the second stanza.
The offense had an old school-like day with 10 different receivers catching a pass. The defense forced turnovers, applied pressure and played solid overall football. This was undoubtedly one of the most complete performances from the entire team.
The Bills are an excellent barometer moving forward, as they play a physical brand of football which happens to be a common theme among the Saints' future opponents (San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, etc.). Being able to slow down the Bills' rushing attack to the tune of 25 carries for 88 yards is something to hang your hat on.
In addition, having a running back like Pierre Thomas find success (14 carries for 65 yards) is something for the Saints to build upon as well. Moving forward, I'd like to see one back get the majority of the reps. It's easier for said back to establish a rhythm, while making it difficult for the opposition to get a beat on what type of play is coming.
Variety, coupled with the element of surprise, can only be of benefit for the Saints against the upper echelon of the NFL.
Things to Improve Upon
To really ascertain its place among the elite teams without the benefit of playing them week in and week out, New Orleans need to show the ability to execute multiple game plans on offense. The Saints are a high-level passing offense first and foremost. But how they achieve those yards can be achieved in a myriad of fashions.
Against the Bills, the Saints employed more of a West Coast-based approach, relying on yards after the catch to generate production. With quarterback Drew Brees going 26-of-34 (to the 10 aforementioned receivers) for 332 yards, with five touchdowns and zero interceptions, it showed that the Saints have the ability implement a schizophrenic-like approach to offensive game plans.
Normally the Saints lean on a vertical-based offensive approach where they generate yards in chunks. But with the team's best vertical threat, tight end Jimmy Graham, hobbled due to a foot injury, and no other proven threat guaranteed to step up in his place, the Saints went to the more efficient approach.
Digging into the personnel aspect of it, the Saints really don't have the personnel to be a vertical passing outfit predominantly.
With all the pundits crying about the injuries among teams like the Atlanta Falcons, the loss of receiver Joe Morgan (knee injury in training camp) has proved to be very costly to the Saints. With an average of 37.9 yards per reception (though on only 10 receptions), it can be argued that Morgan was on his way to being the league's premier deep threat.
Receiver Robert Meachem was once thought of as one of the best field stretchers in the NFL, but with only three catches for 49 yards thus far, those days are now long gone. Fellow receivers Marques Colston and Lance Moore are the quintessential possession receivers in a West Coast offense.
Rookie receiver Kenny Stills had a breakout game (three catches for 129 yards with two TDs), but more often than not he's inconsistent as a pure deep threat. He will eventually be one of the very best in the mid-range game due to his superior route-running ability. A receiver with 4.38 40-yard speed, according to NFL.com, who runs precise routes is rare in the NFL.
This leaves fellow rookie Nick Toon as the best available deep threat.
Toon only has three catches on the season, but trying him out in the Meachem field-stretcher role may be the Saints' best decision yet. Toon, according to CBS, has 4.54 40-yard speed. At 6'4", 218 pounds, that can be a bit misleading.
Once Toon clears about 20 yards, he's just beginning to fully uncoil.
So feed the beast...
|NFC South division standings|
|Team||Wins||Losses||Points for||Points against|
The Saints have a tough road hoe from here on out. It doesn't make it any easier with the Panthers nipping at their heels. Carolina is playing some of the best ball in the entire NFL. After destroying Tampa on Thursday Night Football (31-13), the Panthers have moved above .500 for the first time since 2008.
Carolina is third in the league in total defense and is only allowing 13.7 points per game. Quarterback Cam Newton is one of the highest-rated QBs over the past few outings. Carolina has officially put the Saints on notice.
The Falcons dropped to 2-5 with a loss to the Arizona Cardinals (much to the chagrin of Saints fans I'm sure). Atlanta claimed it was 10 yards away from the Super Bowl heading into this season...can't wait to see what the offseason motto is this year. The team may very well be 10 yards away from the No. 1 overall pick.
No wait, Tampa will more than likely earn that dubious distinction. Time for the proverbial bake sale, Bucs fans...
Injury Report/Quick Hits
|Injury report prior to Bills game|
|Jabari Greer||CB||Not injury related|
There's nothing to see here, folks.
Virtually everyone played whose status was up in the air. Ingram is reportedly getting healthier. Although how healthy do you really need to be to collect splinters in your butt? Ingram should not sniff the field in a Saints uniform.
Jenkins left the Bills game early with a leg injury. If he's unavailable for the next game against the New York Jets, it may be time to get Roman Harper back in the rotation.
Greer hasn't been looking good in coverage over the past few games. He was beat for another long touchdown that was called back due to a holding penalty. He was subsequently benched for a series in favor of second-year corner Corey White.
The Saints need to make that move a permanent one.
There's no rest for the weary, ladies and gentlemen. The Jets (4-4), Dallas Cowboys (4-4), 49ers (6-2), Seahawks (7-1), Falcons and Panthers are all waiting in the wings.
We will undoubtedly see what the Saints are made of...before they procure that Lombardi Trophy.
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