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A View from the UK – Sorry Saints fall to Vikings

The New Orleans Saints season finished on Sunday as the Minnesota Vikings beat them in overtime 26-20 in the Superdome. It was NOT a happy new year for the Saints, as they turned in one of their worst performances of the season. The Vikings Defense beat the Saints Offensive line meaning Drew and crew couldn’t get anything going.

Although the Saints Defense kept them in the game, giving them a chance to win it in regulation, the Offense could not comply and it went to OT. Once the Vikings won the coin toss, it was all but over. The Saints were out-coached and out-played in all departments by Minnesota. I will go into what exactly went wrong, and a couple of good points (T. Hill) on all sides of the ball.

Offense:

After putting up 30-40 points in the last weeks of the regular season, the Saints offense could not get rolling on Sunday. Wrong play designs, offensive line dominated, stars subdued all combined to 20 points on the day.

Drew Brees wasn’t his usual self on Sunday. Pressure in his face really didn’t help this fact and he threw a horrible interception as well as being forced into a fumble late in the 4th. The pick was an attempt to Ted Ginn Jr. of all people, in double coverage, horrible plan, horrible play.

The fumble was even more crucial with the Saints attempting to drive down the field and take the lead. On 1st and 10 from the Vikings 20, further pressure from Danielle Hunter caused Drew to panic, he couldn’t get away in time, Hunter hit his throwing arm, popping the ball out and it was recovered. Vikings ball. Nearly ball game, the defense kept the Saints alive, just.

Brees actually completed 26/33 for 208, a score and that pick. He wasn’t the best Saints QB on the day. The man who received that touchdown pass was.

Taysom Hill was exactly the spark the Saints needed and he nearly got it done on his own. One downfield pass for 50 yards to Deonte Harris should have been a TD but was slightly underthrown. But it was a superb play. He also ran for 50 yards (4 attempts), received for 25 yards including that 20-yard TD. One run from QB position he trucked over a defender and kept going to set the Saints up, becoming the leading rusher on the day.

This gives Hill 125 all purpose offensive yards off just 1 throw plus 6 receptions / runs, the man can do it all. He even ran for a first down on a fake punt but a flag eliminated it. AND he was a lead blocker for the Kamara Touchdown.  PAY THE MAN.

Michael Thomas was covered so tightly but he did get 70 yards on 7 receptions. They used all the cover they could to stop Mike, and they did to an extent, but he isn’t a man you keep completely quiet. A fantastic, record breaking season for Can’t Guard Mike and he deserves so much more. He will be back and he will be even stronger, hopefully with a 2nd WR to help him out.

The run game was never really established with Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray combining for 42 yards on 12 carries and that short Kamara TD. The Vikings were so strong in stopping the run, the Saints pretty much gave up with it. Play calls wrong again here, especially on a 3rd and 1, a Murray, T. Hill, Kamara or even Washington run up the middle gets a 1st down, instead the Saints try to be too clever and lose yardage, horrible.

The much-celebrated Offensive Line was put to the sword by Minnesota, allowing 3 sacks on the day, a Brees forced fumble and lots of pressure. Andrus Peat was guilty of a lot, as was Larry Warford as the Vikings moved Hunter and Griffen inside to stop Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead dominating the line. Excellent coaching by the Vikings won this battle in the trenches and which ultimately won them the game.

Disappointing doesn’t quite cut it for this unit on Sunday. They were completely outplayed and the deserved everything they got out of the match, a defeat.

Defense:

Because of the offensive struggles, the defense was on the pitch a lot longer than they would have wanted. They did show up at times but the fatigue hit them hard and couldn’t keep up after losing the toss in overtime. A forced fumble early gave the Saints an extra possession but they weren’t able to take advantage and get out to a lead the sorely required. A knee down and a false start penalty saved the Vikings giving up score to the defense who proved they can be the unit when needed for the Saints.

Starting with that fumble, it was Janoris Jenkins who made the hit on Adam Thielen to release then ball for it to be recovered. With Eli Apple out injured, Jackrabbit was given the start and the Vikings kept the ball away from him, utilising Thielen with Lattimore more often than Jenkins on Diggs. JJ was also credited with a shared sack and produced some good tackles when required. If the Saints can afford it, I would most definitely be talking about a contract for Jenkins.

Demario Davis was he usual brilliant self, especially when stopping the run in the RedZone. The physical, powerful play style was used to tackle Dalvin Cook multiple times and even losing yardage on occasions. How he didn’t get a pro bowl selection I don’t know. Surely one of the best free agent pick-ups the Saints have ever had.

Another excellent season ending in defeat was for Cam Jordan. A sack fumble returned for a score was ruled out for a false start penalty. But he also got a sack on the night.

PJ Williams got beat for the game winning TD which looked like a slight push off but the Vikings would have won anyway. He also should have gotten an interception.

Trey Hendrickson had a nice game creating a good amount of pressure and also recorded a sack. He was also used in coverage once or twice and had a good stop.

Patrick Robinson gave up the huge strike to Thielen in overtime with Marshon Lattimore off the field injured. It was probably one of Lattimore’s worst games, getting beaten by Thielen on various different plays.

If the offense had managed to capitalise on the defense giving them a turnover and some good field position, the Saints would still be in the season. This game isn’t on the D as they kept the team in the game in the first place. Season injuries to Sheldon Rankins and Marcus Davenport ending up hurting in this one as they are exactly the type of guys you want in playoff games. We go again.

Special Teams:

Wil Lutz missed a 43-yard field goal just before halftime but made his others including the 49-yarder to take the take to overtime. Yes, there is a case to be made that if he makes that the Saints win in regulation but it would have been a different game. Lutz has played so well this season it was a shock that he did miss the kick. The Saints still have one of the best kickers in the NFL.

The quality that Deonte Harris has means that teams now kick away from him. Punts are aimed out of bounds, kick offs are kicked as deep as possible but he still makes things happen. Including a catch and run before the half which set up that Lutz missed kick. The Saints backroom staff have hit on a real gem with this guy and he will only get better following his first full season in the NFL.

Thomas Morstead was required a lot more than the Saints would have wanted. He hit plenty of booming punts and did exactly what was asked of him.

Summary:

The better team on the night won. The Vikings won in the trenches and the Saints had no answer for it. Strangely enough, the defensive stops nearly snuck the Saints the win but it just wasn’t to be. It’s a rare occurrence but Sean Payton was out-coached for the entirety of this game. Yeah, the loss hurts, as they all do, especially in the postseason but nowhere near as much as the injustice of last season. I have no doubt in my mind that Drew Brees and the Saints will be back again for the 2020 season, once again pushing the playoffs and showing what we are all about.

Thank you for your support this season, I appreciate everyone who reads my articles and love writing for All Saints Considered. I’m sure I will pop up during the offseason with some pieces here and there.

For now, until the new season……

Who Dat!

All Saints Considered resident UK Saint! Who Dat!