The New Orleans Saints need to find a way to win on Sunday. No matter how win ugly if you have to. There are three key matchups the Saints need to be on the right side of to win on Sunday in London.
Saints Offense Vs Themselves
The Saints lead the league in turnovers with nine in total. Now, before everyone shouts, well you have Jameis Winston at QB what do you expect? He’s not the reason the Saints lead the league in this category.
Of Winston’s five interceptions only two are bad throws. Even one of those was more a good coverage scheme than an interception that Winston has become known for. The bigger problems have been fumbles.
Mark Ingram has lost two fumbles, both coming at crucial times in weeks one and two. Alvin Kamara lost one last week that was returned for a touchdown, the Saints ended up losing by eight against Carolina.
They have 9 offensive penalties so far through three games. Many killing the few good drives the Saints offense has produced. four of those nine penalties have been preventable (false starts, offensive offsides etc).
Recognising, defending and attacking the blitz has been a consistent drive killer. The offense has struggled against the blitz in all three games so far. Winston has been sacked six times against the blitz and pressured a further 12 times.
This has clearly been a problem and has cost the Saints big time in games. For example HIGHLIGHT: Jeremy Chinn hits Jameis Winston for big sack (panthers.com) the lost yardage on this sack caused a missed field goal for New Orleans. This needs to be cleaned up, some of the blame falls on the o-line, some on coaching and some on the QB.
If this was a lot of other QBs in the league (maybe even Andy Dalton who may end up starting on Sunday), they’d have changed the play at the line to a quicker developing pass play, allowing the offense to punish the Panthers for sending that many players. Right now, that awareness isn’t there. Meaning teams can tee up blitzes, at will with no fear of a counter.
If these issues were isolated and occasional then it does come down to the players doing a better job of executing. When these issues are so widespread and consistent then an equal portion of the blame must land on the coaches. The offensive staff led by OC Pete Carmichael Jr. have to do a better job of ironing out these areas of weakness and putting the players in better positions to succeed.
Run Defense Vs Dalvin Cook
Dalvin Cook is one of the most dynamic RBs in the NFL and he is the focal point of the Vikings’ offense. The Vikings want to be able to establish the run to allow for play-action to at its most effective.
In three previous meetings with the Saints, Cook has played rather well. Across those three games, he averages 21.6 (22) rushes for 96 yards, at 4.2 yards per carry. This is compares favourably to other RBs against the Saints over this time. Since 2017 New Orleans has only allowed 94 yards rushing per game in that span. The stat considers every rushing yard in a game, a random QB scramble, a blown assignment allowing a random long run etc… so for Cook to average above that on his own is impressive.
Play action has been effective so far for the Vikings. Kirk Cousins has the third-best passing grade in the league on play-action throws. His stats on play-action passes:
- 34 attempts, 25 completions for 267 yards. Four TDs to zero Interceptions. 135.5 passer rating
Compare that to his stats on none play-actions throws:
- 85 attempts, 49 completions for 491 yards. One TD to three interceptions. 63.4 passer rating.
It’s clear that so far this season the Vikings success in the passing game comes from establishing the run. So, the Saints priority must be to stop the running game if they want a chance to win on Sunday.
Marson Lattimore vs Justin Jefferson
Marson Lattimore has been lights out. In three games he’s only been thrown at Seven times, he’s allowed three receptions for 23 yards and a passer rating against of 51.5. All the while he’s lined up against:
- Drake London
- Kyle Pitts
- Mike Evans
- Russel Gage
- D.J. Moore
I’d say that’s pretty good. This weekend it’s not clear if he will shadow Justin Jefferson or not and I’m interested to see if the Saints elect to have Lattimore travel with Jefferson or if they choose to play sides.
They chose the latter last week @ Carolina and they don’t always choose to have Lattimore travel. Sometimes they prefer to play sides and double-team a player with a LB or Safety.
The way Lattimore is playing I think putting Lattimore on Jefferson and letting them battle it out would be wise. The last time the two faced off the Saints CB came out on top:
- Eight targets, 4 receptions for 55 yards and 2 PBUs.
Jefferson started the season hot in week one Vs Green Bay (who many called the best secondary in the league) he went off. Catching nine of his ten targets for 184 yards and 2 TDs. Since then he’s been kept in check.
The Eagles chose for the most part to match him with Darius Slay. That went incredibly well. Whilst in coverage against Slay, Jefferson on six targets only managed one reception for seven yards. Slay also intercepted 2 of the passes.
This is in the plan I think the Saints should copy. Lattimore has been elite and traditionally plays better against a team’s number one WR, as Lattimore knows he has to be at his best. Against lesser competition, he has been known to get complacent and play down their level.
So, stop fumbling, stop getting offensive penalties, and start identifying and attacking the blitz better. Stop the run and finally put Marshon Lattimore on Justin Jefferson. Sounds easy right?
Probably not but I feel these are all a must if the Saints are going to win on Sunday. Regardless of who starts at QB (looks like it will be Andy Dalton).
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