Against Miami last week, the Black and Gold found a way to win. Against Atlanta on Monday night, they almost found a way to lose.
There’s no denying the importance of a win against Atlanta, no matter how ugly it was. The Saints record their first divisional win and against their biggest threat for the NFC West. With the victory, the Saints enjoy a 3.5 game lead over the ATL and in the big picture, one game ahead of the Minnesota Vikings for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Saints played sloppy presenting the desperate Dirty Birds with opportunities to climb back into a game that the home team should have put away well before the final seconds ticked down.
What I Liked
Sean Payton’s Play-Calling Saints hit a near even balance with quarterback Drew Brees passing 33 times and the Saints running the ball 35 and not force-feeding the ball running back Reggie Bush, who has struggled as receiver, punter returner and running back this season.
Drew Dat Brees connects on 25 of his 33 passing attempts for a 76% completion rate with two touchdowns and a scramble for four yards. Brees spread the ball to eight different receivers for 308 yards with wide receiver Marquis Colston and tight end Jeremy Shockey combining for 157 yards.
Pierre Thomas Keeps Making a Name for Himself Maybe the Saints’ resident superstar should take some notes on the play of the undrafted Thomas? Number twenty-three ran for 91 yards, including a 22 yard touchdown and made two catches for nine yards, including a one yard touchdown reception.
Saints’ “Second-Line” Marches In (Again) Though some big plays were given up, the defensive backs snared three of Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan’s passes with cornerback Jabari Greer taking one back to the house for six and cornerback Tracy Porter, with help from linebacker Jonathan Vilma, stopped an Atlanta score with a pick deep in Saints territory. Strong safety Roman Harper had seven tackles. If the Saints go to the Super Bowl, it’ll be not just because of Brees’s arm but the secondary’s hands.
Smith Earns His Pay Today Defensive end Will Smith had a great game had two sacks.
SupaFreak69 Strikes Again Fill-in defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove gets a sack.
Poor Atlanta Clock Management Towards the Close of he First Half
What I Didn’t Like
Ding-Bell Plays WWL radio sports commentators encouraged the Saints gambling community to lay down the ten points and with two minutes left it looked like those who gave the points were going to collect…up until running back Mike Bell’s poor ball control during what was supposed to be a standard clock burning run. Running back Pierre Thomas turned over the ball as did Brees, once on a fumble that was run back for an Atlanta touchdown and an interception. Thomas’s celebratory extended-hula dance drew a flag. There’s nothing amusing about giving your opponents good field position due to unnecessary monkey-shining, one of seven penalties the Saints incurred for 65 yards.
Not So Special Teams Kick-off coverage was poor. Kicker John Carney missed a field goal. Atlanta recovers their on-side kick late in the fourth quarter after the ball bounced out of tight end Dave Thomas’s hands. On the upside, kick returner Courtney Roby averaged 29 yards on his three returns and punter Thomas Morstead averaged 40 yards on his two punts.
Turner Runeth Over Atlanta running back Michael Turner was having a disappointing season up until the Monday night game. Turner racked up 151 yards on the ground, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. The Saints’ run defense needs to be improved going into a run-happy Carolina Panthers team this Sunday.
Facts of the Week
The last time the Saints started 7-0 was in 1991 when the Black and Gold won the NFC West with an 11-5 record.
As of Week 9, six of the Saints’ next nine opponents have losing records.