At last, a stress-free Saints game! The Saints did exactly what they were supposed to in Oakland Sunday, absolutely dismantling the Raiders, 38-17. This was the type of play that Who-Dat fans, along with the rest of the league, are accustomed to seeing from New Orleans. Drew Brees had the offense clicking and was sharp as usual, completing 74% of his passes and throwing for three touchdown passes. But it was ultimately the running game that continues to impress the most. Since Joe Vitt returned from his suspension he’s made a clear effort to get back to running the football often and effectively, and it has resulted in three straight victories for the Saints.
Versus the Raiders, the running game compiled 153 yards on 28 carries, making it the third consecutive game the Saints have rushed for over 140 yards after only rushing for over 100 yards once in their first seven games. As I predicted in my Saints/Raiders Game Preview (http://www.saintsnews.net/2012/11/16/the-buckles-report-saints-must-avoid-the-trap-game-in-the-black-hole/), Mark Ingram had a big game for the Saints with 67 yards on 12 carries, including a breakout 27-yard TD in the 3rd quarter. It’ll be very interesting to see how the Saints will utilize their running backs once Darren Sproles returns from injury, especially since it has peaked in his absence. Nevertheless, the new found efficient running game is a welcoming sign and should garner more wins going forward.
Under Sean Payton’s regime, the Saints have been a damn good well-disciplined team. However, vs. the Raiders, New Orleans committed an uncanny 11 penalties for 109 yards. That’s just careless football and there’s no way it would fly if Sean Payton was on the sideline. Fortunately for the Saints, they were playing lowly Oakland but this is definitely still something from this game to improve on moving forward. If New Orleans is serious about surging their way to the playoffs, they must remain sharp. Their margin of error is already very slim so it’s vital that they cut back on the mental errors.
THE VERY GOOD
Man, I never thought I’d be talking about the Saints defense in my “The Very Good” section, I suppose the Mayans were right about world ending soon. Granted this was vs. an extremely less talented Oakland Raiders team, the Saints defense displayed flashes of the ’09 opportunistic defense that helped lead the team to a Superbowl victory. Although two forced turnovers were blasphemously called back by the referees, the Saints still managed to intercept Carson Palmer twice, one that was returned for a TD by Malcolm Jenkins and the other by Roman Harper in their own endzone. The defense still unfortunately continued their streak of giving up 400 yards but most of the yards came in ‘garbage time’ when the game was already well in hand. This just goes to show that no matter how many yards the defense gives up, as long as they make timely stops and produce turnovers, the Saints offense will do the rest and the team will remain very tough to beat.
THE TURNING POINT
After the Saints offense failed to convert Roman Harper’s interception into points early in the 2nd quarter, Carson Palmer proceeded to drive right down the field and cut the Saints lead in half making the score 14-7. All of a sudden, despite clearly dominating the game thus far, the Saints lost all momentum while letting the Raiders hang around in the game. On the ensuing possession, Brees was able to lead the offense to fairly decent striking distance for points until he was called for a critical Intentional Grounding on 2nd down pushing the Saints out of field goal range. However on a huge 3rd down & 13, Brees made a stellar play by stepping up in the pocket, and delivering a strike to WR Lance Moore in the endzone for 38-yard TD. From there the tides completely turned in favor of New Orleans and they never looked back, outscoring Oakland, 24-10, for the remainder of the game.
SAINTS’ SAFETY TANDEM
I could not bring myself to choose between Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper, so I chose them both. This was undoubtedly the best game these two have had as a tandem in the secondary; hence it being the first time they’ve both had an interception in the same game in their four seasons together. That is what Saints fans envisioned the safety play to be like this season under new Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo; making plays on the ball, rather than doing heavy blitzing and playing inside of the box all too often like they were in Gregg Williams’ scheme. They were both very aggressive and impressively played just as well vs. run as the pass. More consistent play like what we saw Sunday from these two defensive captains, and we can expect big improvements from this defense.
Saints have a critical stretch up next with the 49ers coming to town Sunday then four days later having to travel toAtlantato face a very vengeful Falcons team on Thursday Night football. The result of these two games can and most likely will shape up the Saints’ chances of making the playoffs season. Coming out of that stretch with a potential 7-5 record would have them on a very fast track to earning that coveted postseason spot. One game at a time, fellas.
Kevin Buckles – Saints News and Saints News Radio Analyst