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A View from the UK – Defensive Display Downs Dallas

A three takeaway, solid defensive display from the New Orleans Saints helped beat the Dallas Cowboys 12-10 on Sunday night in the superdome, even after the Cowboys fans “took over” the city (laughs to self). With the offense not firing and being held to field goals, the defense stepped up and showed the league what they’re about keeping the previously top/2nd rated (depending on who you follow) Dak Prescott to not a whole lot. In front of a raucous crowd in New Orleans, the D got it done with help from special teams and to give them credit, time chewed up by the offense. Let’s dive into some individuals as we always do.

Offense:

Not a good one today with 0-4 on trips to the RedZone but time of possession was huge for this side of the ball. Penalties really hurt drives, stopping some good plays. Sloppy is the best way I can describe this performance.

Firstly, Teddy Bridgewater. I actually thought he marshalled the offense very well in his “game management” style we are becoming accustom to. Teddy’s style essential for 36.04 time of possession for the game. Stats far from sparkling 23/30 for 193, no scores and a pick don’t reflect well but I don’t put that pick on him, was more of good tackle/Ginn’s poor catching, so an okay outing. Still he needs to be more decisive with his play calls and when/not to run. It will come with time and practise. Another week to get it firing but the key was the win.

Star for me today was Michael Thomas. TB5’s go to guy on this occasion with others being held up by Dallas. 95 yards on 9 catches and he did his job well. Some passes were a bit high and far but he went up and got them. One play in particular, Thomas saw that the play (flea flicker) was a bust but ran back on his route and caught the ball for 8 or so. Thomas was a key to keeping the Saints on offense and getting those 7-10 yard plays essential for clock chewing.

Alvin Kamara was, to an extent, was “shutdown” in this one. I call it a shutdown because he didn’t get 100+ but he was still as good just not crazy good as we’re used to. Being Kamara he never will be shutdown entirely but for his high standards a quieter game. 89 yards from scrimmage for AK, Dallas realised he was where most of the play would go through. Eyes always went to Kamara. One series involved a Kamara run up the middle for a first down, next play EXACTLY the same design but this time Taysom Hill in at QB, eyes to Kamara, Hill free to truck forward for 18 yards. Beautiful.

Kamara still was slippery, all perfect balance and style, again leaving defenders in his wake, just not as often as Seattle and that’s credit to Dallas’ defense.

Not too many others to talk about but I thought the Offensive Line were poor. 5 sacks allowed with resulted in -44 yards, the last of these knocked the saints out of field goal range which removed the chance to make it a 5 point lead. They were better in helping the run game for Kamara and at one or two times, Latavius Murray. Flags and flags some more isn’t a good game plan to follow. Peat, McCoy, Warford and Armstead all flagged for either false starts or holding throughout this one. At home they need to stop this, no crowd noise to affect you, get this ironed out now before later in the season. Fortunately it didn’t matter because of the Saints stellar, brutal defensive display.

Defense:

3 takeaways including 2 key forced fumbles and a pick to end the game – this team went from good to great, just as Dennis Allen asked for. Only giving up 10 points to Dallas who had previously scored 30 or more every week so far. This was the best defensive display by New Orleans this season, if not for a few seasons. Plenty to talk about on this side of the ball.

Vonn Bell was again, brilliant. He recovered 2 fumbles, forcing one himself, defended a pass AND had 10 tackles. Bell is going from strength to strength in this system. Again he was everywhere. The key forced fumble was on Zeke Elliott on 4th down. Elliott made the yard required, plus another before Bell tackled the ball and got it himself to set up a half ending FG for the Saints to lead 9-3. The one blot on the copy book was a “roughing the passer” penalty which honestly was total trash. Prescott literally slides into and Bell tries to avoid him but whatever. If the zebras call that one they should call the one on Teddy too – inconsistent by the refs. Realistically, they should throw neither.

Marshon Lattimore was back this week. Form is temporary, class is permanent. 2 passes defensed and four tackles but it was coverage that was improved. No major plays were given up this week. Charged with covering one of the better wideouts in the league in Amari Cooper, Lattimore stood up. One particular great defended pass was against Cooper to stop a 1st down – jumping around from behind and batting the ball down.  

David Onyemata came up really clutch in the 4th quarter with the Saints only sack of the contest but it was a big one. Pushing the Cowboys back further into their territory when they were looking for a quick strike to get within field goal range.

Run Defense. Just as a unit was outstanding. They held a Dallas offense that had run for at least 200 yards in back-to-back games – with a pair of 100-yard rushers the previous week – to just 2.3 yards per carry and 45 yards on 20 rushes.

They held Zeke Elliott to just 35 yards on 18 carries which is less than 2 yards a carry. He did score the only TD of the game though but no one could have stopped him from that 1 yard run. I was really impressed with the play calling and the physicality the unit showed over the course of the match.

Demario Davis weekly appreciation paragraph. Probably one of the best acquirements the Saints have made in recent years, guy is a baller. Fast, strong and powerful. 9 solo tackles with 3 assisted made and had a great pass defended but this was ruled out for a PI call which was 50/50 at best.

AJ Klein had a nice forced fumble in coverage from Jason Witten. I spoke last week about Klein in coverage and how basically, he shouldn’t be, but he did a great job here with the tackle/punch out which Bell then picked up. 7 total tackles for him on the night too.

Quick shout out to Marcus Williams for his pick to ice the game under heavy pressure, quiet night for him but he did give up the biggest play of the match on the 35 yard catch by 2nd Dallas Tight End Jarwin.

Special Teams:

Wil Lutz did what he does with all 4 of his FG attempts finding the back of the net – key on the night as his boot totaled all of the Saints points.

A couple of nice returns again by Deonte Harris which set up a few shorter fields however Dallas were aware of his qualities after the Seahawks game and shut him down as quickly as possible.

Thomas Morstead was busy but effective again with 2 of his 4 punts within the 20 once again.

Summary:

These Saints just find a way to win. It ain’t always pretty, it ain’t the shootout games, it’s a team working incredibly hard for one another, going the hard yards and beating the opponents down in any way possible. Last week it was a team win, this week it’s definitely the defense that stood up but the main thing is the result and the record reads Saints 3-1. 2 full games without Drew, 2 wins. First divisional game of the season next week, a 2 game lead could yet be around the corner.

Until next time……

Who Dat!

All Saints Considered resident UK Saint! Who Dat!