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A View from the UK – Saints lose Shootout in Superdome

The New Orleans Saints lost the game of the season on Sunday afternoon in the Superdome falling 48-46 to the San Francisco 49ers. In a shootout where the lead changed hands multiple times, the Saints couldn’t stop San Fran on a 4th and 2 just behind midfield as George Kittle made a huge catch and run to set up a 30-yard winning field goal as time expired. I will now review the explosive offense and the implosive defense for the Saints.   

Offense:

Lots of positives to take from the Saints offense against previously no.1 ranked pass defense. Drew Brees was dominant all afternoon against the 49ers D. After obviously getting the ball out as fast as possible, Brees settled into a rhythm and found receivers on many different types of play. Utilising his Tight Ends at first before going back to main man Michael Thomas. Some poor play calling was blown up by the 49ers, usually drop back to screens in the flat which didn’t work on multiple occasions. Brees is certainly hitting form at the right time. 29/40 for 349, 5 Touchdowns plus the poetry in motion which is in the Brees leap for the 1-yard score. Brees threw into tight windows, took deep shots and the usual check downs and slant plays. Anyone saying he’s washed up now? Didn’t think so.

One of the multiple injuries which hurt the Saints the most was losing TE Jared Cook so early in the game. Cook had two catches for two TDs and 64 yards including an amazing grab up high, where he got tackled in the head on the ground leading to his concussion protocol. With the Brees to Cook playbook into the main plot, it was a bad injury, forcing the Saints 2nd best receiver out of the game. I honestly believe if Cook plays the remainder, the Saints win, that’s how good he was been recently.

Speaking of receivers, San Francisco you just made the “Can’t Guard Mike” list, congratulations. Michael Thomas is clutch. After being utilised in short, snap passes, but effectively. Brees threw a perfect, I mean perfect pass to CGM, yards after catch, thank you very much. 11 catches, 134 yards and a score for the Saints number 13 including that 49 yard long. With Cook out and other players nowhere near as effective, Thomas was the guy yet again catching balls from the GOAT. More records to be broken in weeks to come.

Let’s talk run game. The Saints tried a lot of different tactics to try and get Alvin Kamara into the game but he was shut down completely in this one. Including a killer lost fumble. On the other hand, Latavius Murray was productive and should have been used more. 94 yards from scrimmage for the RB2 and he averaged 9.9 yards per carry on the ground, I like his ground and pound style of play and hope he is involved as much as possible down the stretch.

Ted Ginn Jr. Got a few catches (4 for 50 yards) but also a drop, was nice to see him being trusted more, and as per usual he needs to step up more behind Thomas, especially with Cook potentially out. Tre’Quan Smith wasn’t great through most the game until the 4th quarter where he showed up and got a go-ahead TD with 53 seconds left, beating a man in the process. More of that please TQS, less drops.

Although they allowed some pressure on Brees, leading to a few QB hits, mainly by outstanding player Nick Bose, the Offensive Line held the 2nd highest sack getting defense to 0 on the day which is a great achievement, especially with continuing injuries. As mentioned early, the plan was clear. Snap ball, get ball, pass but the O-line was there to keep Brees on his feet having to only scramble on a few occasions. They were also influential on his 1-yard leap TD. With people getting healthier by the day, more of the same will happen and is certainly required for the rest of the season.

Two 2-point attempts failed on the game, which looking at the box score is what cost the Black and Gold but I disagree, the defense cost the game. The second attempt was only necessary because of the failed first one. Again, I do get the aggressive call but the play was completely wrong on attempt no.1. A yard away (following a penalty on the 49ers), try a leap, run up the middle with a jumbo package which works so well but no. We didn’t need to go backwards to go forwards in this situation, horrible.

Defense:

What Defense? Well, what secondary? As Jimmy G and the 49ers pass game destroyed the Saints time and again, including the huge gain on 4th and 2 by George Kittle with the game on the line.

Some huge sacks were collected by the pass rush, and at crucial times but some serious work needs to go into the corner and safety play during the week to get it right for the last 3 and the postseason. I don’t really want to add more criticism to some of the already much maligned players, so I will try and focus on the positives, this may be a short segment…..

Vonn Bell’s sack of Jimmy G was a giant play in the context of the game. Dropping the 49ers back 11 extra yards, stopping a potential TD drive into just 3 points. It didn’t matter in the end but was a great play by Bell coming off the edge and causing a large yardage loss.

Demario Davis weekly appreciation paragraph. Big time sack by DD too as he racked up 7 more tackles. Maybe some of the other players would benefit from DD teaching them some tackle techniques. With the other starting line-backers out, Davis again lead from the front and did his job.

Marshon Lattimore wasn’t targeted much because it’s Latt so didn’t get involved too much but had a great pass break-up deep into the 4th.

You just cannot afford to give up over 500 yards, especially at home. Trick plays really hurt the D with Emmanuel Sanders scoring here, there and everywhere (guess who was playing against him on fantasy -_-). WR’s throwing passes, the FB pitch play stolen from the Saints, jet sweeps, you name it, they tried it. The Saints did actually force the pass a lot, which was the game plan but got burned with the run game being somewhat blocked up, although not entirely.

Special Teams:

As expected there has been a lot of talk around the fake punt attempt. I have seen arguments on both sides including a pass interference flag thrown on a similar play in the Cardinals and Bucs game.

What’s clear is the ref’s don’t know the rule. How can one officiating crew call it and another not? What is clear was the hold so it should have been flagged regardless. Either way, I hate the play call. At the time the Saints were only 2 behind and could have penned the 49ers deep in their own half. While the defense were not performing, it was a momentum swing we didn’t need. I get why we called it, I just don’t think it was the right time in the match. If we were down by 2 or 3 scores, I understand it, but not there, not then.

Productive as usual with Wil Lutz hitting all his kicks when required including some deep kicks which were crucial at the time. These 50-yard plus attempts will prove more and more important as the weeks tick by into the postseason.

Deonte Harris was clearly missed when he was out with an injury. He can spark the team to life and set up excellent field position with his returns. It’s nice to see Harris getting involved with the offense more now too.

Summary:

A shootout that ended typically as they always do, who ends with the ball wins. I was worried the Saints scored their go-ahead TD too early and so it proved, they came 1 defensive stop away from a huge win and path to the NFC #1 seed via they own fate and the road to the Superbowl through New Orleans. They now need some favours along the way from old “friends” LA Rams, Minnesota Vikings and maybe even the Falcons to get top seed. I would take the #2 if SF get the #1. Revenge game in Santa Clara sounds juicy to me, bring it on. Get that secondary on the practise field.

Until next time……

Who Dat!

All Saints Considered resident UK Saint! Who Dat!