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A View from the UK – SACK Dinner sees Saints seal NFC South

You know what’s great about beating the Falcons, apart from actually beating them, is Falcons twitter. I’m not sure what 12-year-old runs their account but some of the stuff they tweet is pathetic and so childish. Anyway, it makes it all the more fun when we can troll them back.

This wasn’t a great performance by the Saints but they got the job done on a short week, on the road, in primetime with a 26-18 win in Atlanta. The Saints defense racked up 14 QB hits, 9 sacks and 3 takeaways and they dominated the Falcons even when being on the field for the majority of the night. With the win, the Saints sealed the NFC South for the 3rd consecutive year (and in November!) and are guaranteed at least one home game in January.

 As usual, I will deep dive into some individuals on all three sides of the ball for the black and gold.

Offense:

Not the most productive the offense has been this season, not helped by 5 drops from Saints players. They came away with two touchdowns and that proved enough on the night, improvement will be needed before San Francisco come into town next week after the mini bye.

Standout player for the offense…. Taysom Hill! The human Swiss army knife scored both of the Saints Touchdowns, one 3-yard catch, one 30-yard run and the trickery fooled the Falcons defense nearly a month after Halloween. Taking the snap as the QB, it was also a wildcat type play for the run and he powered through and walked into the endzone past trailing Falcons defenders. Hill got 45 yards from scrimmage and played in about 4 different positions. This was exactly the type of game where he thrives and loves the responsibility, Taysom, you get a turkey leg.

The normal QB plays were led, of course, by Drew Brees. Okay is the word I would use to describe his performance on Thanksgiving night. 18/30 for 184 and TD pass on the night, however, if receivers didn’t drop passes including another TD this would look much better from the talisman. Kept clean all night by the once again impressive Offensive Line, Brees was accurate but not explosive, fully understandable on a short week and I know he will be back to his normal self next Sunday.

There appears to be a theme developing with Alvin Kamara against the Falcons. He never seems to perform to his excellent standards. Not saying he was bad, reeling off some nice runs with a 24-yard long and 84 yards from scrimmage. The Falcons seem to have his number a bit and he still doesn’t look 100% healthy. I think the mini bye is perfect timing going into the biggest game of the season against the 49ers.

Still well on his way to setting reception records is Michael Thomas. A season low for CGM with 48 yards but still 6 catches and a drop! The Falcons did well to stop his extending plays with those yards after catch we are used to.

Jared Cook should have had more than his 85 yards off 3 catches, as he dropped 3 balls including what should have been a Touchdown. A huge catch and run of 40 yards was his best of the night. He seems to be finding his form at the right time going into the stretch (drops aside).

A battered and bruised Offensive Line more than stood up to the mark with 0 sacks allowed and two starters out. They really helped the Saints win this game in the trenches.

Defense:

The Falcons ran 85 offensive plays against the Saints defense and stayed on the field for nearly 36 minutes of the 60. They responded with multiple stops, turnovers, including a turnover on downs on the Falcons second drive and a season high 9 sacks of Matt Ryan. Penalties still proved an issue with hands to the face, blocks in the back, personal fouls and pass interference all given up. Seriously now. This will not work against the 49ers. If the Saints continue to give up so many yards and 5 penalty first downs against better opponents, they will not survive with the W.

Let’s begin with the four-sack man, Cam Jordan. Super Cam was hungry on Thanksgiving night, and not just for some turkey after the game. He destroyed the Falcons offensive line and created pressure all night long. He achieved a career high night in terms of sacks hitting Ryan four times while he still had the ball. The pressure the Saints created meant Ryan was forced into mistakes which lead to 3 turnovers, including a fumble Ryan himself gave up.

Favourite moment on the night has to be Shy Tuttle’s interception. The big man defending the line of scrimmage made himself a big target and swallowed up the ball after Ryan released it. On the return, as Ryan came towards him, he provided the best stiff arm I’ve ever seen, sending Ryan flat on his face and eating the floor.

Another man with a good night was Marcus Davenport. He recorded two sacks and two forced fumbles, one of which was recovered by the Saints after a huge hit on the advancing QB. After being used sparingly a few times, he was key in helping keep the pressure on a defeated Falcons offensive line.

Saints rookie CJ Gardner-Johnson grabbed an interception around midfield to again push back the Falcons from getting close to the Saints.

Honourable mentions go to the other Saints sack-grabbers in Craig Robertson¸ Trey Hendrickson and Sheldon Rankins. As well as my weekly appreciation message for Demario Davis who did what we have come to expect of him and be everywhere all the time, especially in and around the RedZone to stop the Falcons converting FGs to TDs.

Special Teams:

A bit of a mixed bag for the special teams unit. It started very well with a blocked punt by, guess who… Taysom Hill! It must just be a Saints against Falcons thing, just expect it to happen these days.

Also, what’s the deal with opposing kicker missing kicks. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, I love it! But a FG and another XP missed here – maybe the Saints have put some Voodoo on the kickers.

Wil Lutz again was perfect, hitting all 4 of his field goals and both his extra points.

Thomas Morstead continued his good season as well with all of his punts, even when he went short on one, a lucky bounce took it further down field.

The biggest issue on this side of the ball was definitely the onside kicks. 3, yes 3 times the Falcons recovered an onside kick. The first was brought back by penalty, they did it again. On the last attempt they again recovered it. Considering how difficult it is to recover onside kicks, especially with rule changes this season, this HAS to change. After a few days rest, I expect a lot of practise because for this to happen in a major game will cost the Saints severely. Sort it out!

Summary:

The Saints got the job done and are now in the postseason. There are a lot of points to work on however. All in all, I’m happy with the win and especially the defensive showing.

Now is the time for resting up, getting healthy in the mini bye and preparing for a HUGE game against the 49ers. One thing for sure the Black and Gold won’t win that one if they continue to give up so many penalty yards. I fully expect the Saints to come in the 49ers game ready, strong and they will perform for the home crowd, giving them the front seat for the #1 seed.

Until next time……

Who Dat!

All Saints Considered resident UK Saint! Who Dat!