Saints Looking for Monday Night Magic

Saints Lions Football
First place in the NFC South and prime playoff positioning on the line for the Saints on Monday night.(AP Images/Rick Osentoski)

 

New Orleans Saints (2-2) vs. Los Angeles Chargers (1-3)

Monday, Oct. 12, 7:15 p.m.

TV: ESPN (WDSU 6 locally)

Radio: WWL 105.3 FM/870 AM; Spanish KGLA 105.7 FM/830 AM

 

First place in NFC South on the line

The Saints had only run one offensive play from scrimmage and were down two touchdowns. Detroit made the first five minutes of the game feel like a continuation of New Orleans’ two-game skid before the Saints reeled off five straight touchdown drives and the defense pulled together their best effort since opening day.

With quarterback Drew Brees seemingly returning to expected form (19 of 25, 246 yards, two TDs, one Int.), running backs Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray combining for 33 carries, 147 yards, and three touchdowns, and receivers Emmanuel Sanders (six receptions, 93 yards) and Tre’Quan Smith (four receptions, 54 yards, two TDs) becoming more of the game plan, excitement is growing that the explosive Saints offensive scheme is showing its potency.

The Saints D allowed a season low 281 total yards, the first time they’ve given up fewer than 300 yards this season and held the Lions to 4 of 11 (36%) on third down conversions. Defensive linemen Cam Jordan, Trey Hendrickson and David Onyemata each had a quarterback sack, and corner Patrick Robinson kept points off the board by intercepting Lions QB Matt Stafford in the end zone. By holding Detroit to just 90 yards rushing, New Orleans extended its streak of not allowing 100 rushing yards in their last 46 games, the third-longest streak in the NFL.

The Saints return to the Superdome for Monday Night Football with a chance to move into first place in the NFC South and climb into third place in the NFC playoff picture with a win. They take on the Los Angeles Chargers, who got a full broadside attack from the Buccaneers last week. The Chargers raced out to 24-7 lead, including scoring a Pick 6, before Tampa Bay sailed to a 38-31 win. Bucs QB Tom Brady finished 30 0f 46 (65%) for 369 yards, five TDs, and one Int; RB Ronald Jones II had 20 carries for 111 yards; and WR Mike Evans had seven catches for 122 yards and a score.

Chargers rookie QB Justin Herbert was 20/25 passing (80%) for 290 yards, three TDs, and one interception. Those are great numbers, but he also led the team in rushing with five carries for 14 yards. That killed the Chargers’ chances.

Herbert will try to hook up with WR Keenan Allen and the Chargers are hoping to get a revived pass rush from star DE Joey Bosa.

 

At the Line of Scrimmage

When the Saints have the ball

Through a quarter of the 2020 season, the Saints offense is still looking for consistency. New Orleans is scoring 30.8 points per game, tied for 5th best in the NFL, but the rest of their numbers are mediocre. They’re 17th in total offense with 371 yards per game, 13th in rushing (120.0), and 17th in passing (251.0).

The Chargers defense is looking to improve their performance. LA is giving up 23.8 points per game and currently ranks 19th in total defense (373.8), tied for 12th against the run (110.8), and 25th in passing defense (263.0).

 

When the Chargers have the ball

After starting QB Tyrod Taylor was injured with a pierced lung, Herbert has played extremely well and kept L.A. competitive. But the Chargers have had trouble putting points on the board. They rank 8th in total offense with 400.3 yards per game, however they’re 27th in scoring average (20.8). They’re 12th in rushing with 125.3 yards per game and 7th in passing (275.0).

The Saints D is giving up 30.8 points per game (25th), but their other numbers are pleasantly surprising. They rank 6th in the league in total defense (334.3 ypg), tied for 6th in rushing defense (97.5) and 13th in passing (236.8).

 

Goal to Geaux

The keys to a Saints victory center on continuing to improve on the good form they showed in Detroit. The defense pressured the quarterback, held the Lions to four third down conversions, and cut back the penalties. They’ll need to pressure and confuse Chargers rookie QB Justin Herbert and force them to try to run the ball.

The Saints offense has shown improvement over the last two weeks, but proved what it’s capable of in the 2nd and 3rd quarters against the Lions when they had five straight touchdown drives. After a slow start, Bress has completed 71.3% of his passes for 1,006 yards, eight touchdowns, two interceptions, and a 108.2 passer rating. Look for the Saints to try to establish the run early with Sanders and Smith helping to keep the ball moving upfield.

 

Three & Out – Thoughts on Week 4

  1. Alvin Kamara scored a touchdown for the sixth consecutive regular season game dating back to 2019, tying the franchise mark for consecutive contests with a score. He has seven TDs on the season and has been electrifying.

 

  1. The Saints offense went 5-5 in the red zone, all touchdowns, against the Lions defense.

 

  1. With the win over the Lions, head coach Sean Payton improved his overall record to 141-86 (.621), including an 8-7 postseason mark, and moved into a tie with former Panthers and Broncos head coach John Fox for 25th all-time in NFL record books in victories. Payton ranks fifth in wins among active head coaches.

 

Quotes of the Week

“That was one of the cooler things about the postgame. Every once in a while you have one of those gut-check games, and I felt like our players responded. And going forward, I think that gives you confidence as a team.” – Saints head coach Sean Payton on the team coming back to win after going down 14-0 to the Lions in the first five minutes of last week’s game

 

“We didn’t blink. Even when we were down 14, I knew we were going to be able to come back, because I know who’s at quarterback, and I know what kind of players we’ve got.” – Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders on the team’s confidence

 

“When we throw the ball down the field, we are able to keep defenses on their toes. If we run the ball efficiently, the sky’s the limit for what we can do.” – Saints running back Latavius Murray on the potency of New Orleans’ offense

 

Inside the NFC South

                                                W   L   T   Win %   PF       PA     DIV    

Tampa Bay Buccaneers         3    2    0    0.600      139      112     1-1

New Orleans Saints               2    2    0    0.500      123      123     1-0

Carolina Panthers                  2    2    0    0.500      99       102    0-1

Atlanta Falcons                      0    4    0    0.000      106      138    0-0

 

Atlanta Falcons (0-4) vs. Carolina Panthers (2-2)

The Falcons remain winless after falling to Green Bay 30-16 on Monday Night Football. Their offense has potential, but WR Julio Jones may be out due to a re-aggravated hamstring injury. On defense, Atlanta has allowed 341.5 passing yards and 34.5 points per game, both second to last in the NFL. Thought to be a rebuild, Carolina has rebounded from back-to-back losses to the Raiders and Buccaneers to back-to-back road wins against the Chargers and Cardinals. The Panthers are showing moxy, but sports books are expecting the Falcons to pick up their first win.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2) 19 at Chicago Bears (4-1) 20 – Thursday Night

Chicago scored a surprise 20-19 victory after falling 13 points behind early in the first quarter. Former Tulane kicker Cairo Santos split the uprights with 1:17 left to play to give the Bears a one-point lead. Tampa QB Tom Brady was roughed up by the Bears D all night, but appeared poised to move the Bucs into field goal range but thinking it was third down, he threw short of the first-down marker, and the ball turned over on downs.

 

NFC Playoff Picture

Below are the current NFC standings through Week 5. The NFL expanded its playoff format from 12 to 14 teams for the 2020 season. Each conference will have seven playoff teams – four division champions and three wild card teams. Only the top seed from each conference will have a first-round playoff bye.

 

Seed  Team             Division       W L   T

1          Packers          North             4    0    0

2          Seahawks       West               4    0    0

3          Buccaneers    South              3    2    0

4          Eagles             East                1    2    1

5          Bears              North             4    1    0

6          Rams              West               3    1    0

7          Saints           South            2   2   0

8          Panthers        South              2    2    0

9          Cardinals       West               2    2    0

10        49ers              West               2    2    0

11         Washington   East                1    3    0

12        Cowboys        East                1    3    0

13        Lions              North             1    3    0

14        Vikings           North             1    3    0

15        Falcons          South              0    4    0

16        Giants            East                0    4    0

 

Record Watch

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, 41, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady, 43, are all in on cementing their legacies in the NFL history books and continuing their assault on the NFL career records for passing touchdowns and yardage. With five TD passes last week, Brady trails Brees by two.

 

Rank    Player   TDs    Yards

1             Brees       555      78,422

2             Brady      553      75,946

 

The Extra Point: New Orleans need fans in the stands

The New Orleans Saints want to open the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to 25% capacity. The governor is cool with it. The mayor is not.

As a result, the crowd will be limited to around 750 family members of players, coaches, and staff for the second straight home game.

Before the Saints second home game against Green Bay, Gov. John Bel Edwards gave the Saints approval to allow 18,500 fans to attend Saints games at the 74,295 seat stadium. Mayor LaToya Cantrell won’t grant a special exemption from the current restrictions.

The Saints say they have health and safety protocols in place, including face coverings and social distancing for all fans and staff in attendance, and reported that no COVID-19 cases were transmitted during the Packers game. That’s encouraging.

As of now, the team is hoping the mayor will allow reduced capacity for the next home game against NFC South rival Carolina on Oct 25.

Businesses in the CBD and French Quarter are, too. It’s been a challenging economic year and people are hurting. The City of New Orleans has even been forced to furlough some employees. With major conferences and special events, which is one of the city’s major economic lifelines, cancelled for the foreseeable future, any opportunity for commerce is welcomed.

While no one wants to be associated with a super-spreader event, it’s time to open the ’Dome to 25% and let those fans call on downtown businesses that desperately need a lifeline.

 

 

 

Categories: Pre-Snap Read