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Four Takeaways From The Out-Matched New Orleans Saints Primetime Defeat

Gone are the days of a game like this being a primetime slug-fest between two teams with great talent and even greater expectations. 

The Saints were out-matched almost from the get-go in primetime last night against the Ravens, and sadly, I think this is only the start.

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This Offense Does Not Work Without The Running Game

It’s been clear for some time that this Saints offense goes as the running game does. Last night was a crippling reminder of that. Without it, you are expecting a 35-year-old Andy Dalton to function with Chris Olave and Alvin Kamara to throw, too, and that’s about it.

It was clear from the first drive the Ravens wanted to make the Saints one dimensional, they sold out to stop the run game, and they achieved that on the first drive. The Saints had a second and three, followed by a third and one. Usually, that’s exactly where the Saints want to be, they couldn’t convert, and it wasn’t close.

What happens when the offense has to pass, and the defense knows it? The defense blitzes, and the Ravens did that last night with great effectiveness. Getting to Dalton early and often with creative blitzes, especially on third down.

The Saints finished 3-11 on third down after entering the game as one of the league’s better third-down offenses. That was massively down to effective blitzes and not being able to run the ball as effectively as they have in previous weeks.

The blueprint is out on the Saints offense. HC Dennis Allen and OC Pete Carmichael Jr need to know that and adjust otherwise, teams will be loading up all season, and there will be plenty more offensive displays like last night.

The Saints Miss Michael Thomas

Many of you are reading this and thinking, well,… obviously.

To some, it wasn’t obvious. There was some thought that this offense would be fine with Chris Olave as the number one WR, and that’s about it, and the receiver position.

To some extent, I could forgive people for thinking that, since Dalton has taken over as the starter, the passing game has been far more effective than we have seen the last two seasons. Alvin Kamara has come to life in the passing game as we would’ve always expected, and the running attack has led the way for the offense.

However, last night it was clear as day why a player like Michael Thomas is so important. When the run game is shut down, and the Saints have to pass, they need someone else who can get open quickly on third downs and in the RedZone to give Dalton a quick outlet to go to when the defense does blitz.

Outside of Olave, that just wasn’t there last night. Marquez Callaway did have one filthy route in the RedZone at the end of the first half that should have been a TD.  Unfortunately, Dalton just flat-out missed him, but that is not a consistent enough occurrence. Callaway then pretty much disappeared for the rest of the game. 

Getting Jarvis Landry back should help a lot. His game meshes much more with the Dalton-led offense than the Jameis Winston offense. Him returning and being effective is no longer a luxury it is essential.

The Defense Still Struggles Against Mobile QBs

If you look at the box score, you may think they didn’t do that badly.

At face value, they didn’t, and with some better tackling, the stats would have looked a lot better. This was an improvement to previous games against QBs with similar rushing ability to Jackson. The issue is this team has to allocate so much attention, concentration, and resources to stopping this part of the team’s offenses that everything else falls by the wayside.

Both safeties blow a coverage because they paid so much respect to Lamar and the rushing attack. One led to the Ravens’ first TD, and the second left a wide-open TE to convert a third and long.

The numbers don’t show it, but Jackson could do whatever he wanted in the passing game. In fact, if he didn’t miss three of four wide-open WRs, the score and the passing game stats would have looked a lot different.

At this point, I don’t what this team can do to fix this issue. It’s been a problem every year, even throughout their dominant run as one of the league’s best defenses. This team is not one of those dominant units. 

I’m starting to wonder if the Saints prototype of massive DEs who win with power rather than speed could be a reason. Where the DEs take a little longer to win, it’s easier for QBs to escape, and even if they do win quickly, it seems easier for the more nimble athletic QBs to escape and make the play when they really shouldn’t be able to.

The Injuries Are Still Piling Up

The hits keep coming to this team. They’ve already played much of the reason without Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry, and Marshon Lattimore.

Just as you think the Saints are starting to get back to good health, Erik McCoy, Pete Werner, and Marcus Davenport left last night’s game with injuries.

Losing any of these players for extended periods would be brutal for this team. All three are crucial to the team’s success. 

McCoy is the anchor of the o-line, which, as we’ve already discussed, is crucial to this team’s effectiveness. It also means a lot of juggling on the line. Cesar Ruiz would move to Center, where he did play in college, but Ruiz’s improvement at RG this season has been so good the team could really do without moving him. Then to replace Ruiz, the Saints have Calvin Throckmorton, who played well with limited expectations last season but has struggled so far in limited snaps this year.

Pete Werner has been playing at an all-pro level so far this season, and the team’s depth behind him is shaky at best. They’d be forced to play Kaden Ellis more, who’s done well so far this season in a very specific role. How he’d do with a more expansive role remains to be seen.

Although Marcus Davenport’s sack numbers have not been there so far this season, he’s still leading the team in pressures. Losing him would be a real hit to an already limited pass rush. Similar to the point made about Werner, the team’s depth is fairly shaky begins Davenport as well. Payton Turner has shown some improvements in the last two games. Again how he would do with more responsibilities as the team’s main, base DE remains to be seen.

Either way, these are questions this team could really do without. The margin for error is already so small with this team. Add to that three key starters not being available, it only gets smaller.


There are no more if, and’s, or buts. This team is what their record says it is a 3-6 football team with more questions than answers. Somehow, they are only one game back from the lead in the putrid NFC South.

There’s still a path for the team to make the playoffs, but it is wafer thin, they need to win all the games they should ( and there are not many at this stage) and win a couple on paper they shouldn’t, and even that might not be enough.

It has to start next week against the similarly dysfunctional Pittsburgh Steelers and go from there. Either way, Saints fans, protect yourselves. Temper expectations, enjoy the highs whenever they come, and take the lows for what they should be at this point. Expected.

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5 things to look out for in Week 9

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Week 9 sees three huge matchups in the AFC playoff race and two NFC teams looking for a lifeline

1. Newly-boosted Miami Dolphins travel to Chicago to face the Bears

The Dolphins went all in on Tuesday, trading a first-round pick for edge-rusher Bradley Chubb, putting them right up there with the best in the AFC.

Chicago were active too, first losing Roquan Smith to the Ravens for a 2nd, but then flipping another 2nd to Pittsburgh for Chase Claypool, giving Justin Fields another weapon.

Luke Getsy’s Bears offense run the ball over 50% of the time, will they be successful against the league’s sixth-best run defense?

2. Buffalo Bills and New York Jets face off in key AFC East matchup

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PFF’s #1 ranked offense (Bills), faces off against the #1 defense that the New York Jets possess, expect them to cause Josh Allen problems.

New York’s offensive line is really banged-up, look for Von Miller, Ed Oliver and co to feast.

A win for the Jets will see them hold the tiebreaker over not only the Buffalo Bills but also the Miami Dolphins, setting up a spicy end to the AFC East.

3. Arizona Cardinals are in need of a win vs Seattle Seahawks

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Arizona scored over 25 points once whilst DeAndre Hopkins was suspended, in the two games since he came back, they’ve done it twice.

Seattle were 19-9 winners when these two sides met in Week 6, Pete Caroll’s team have won the past two against Kliff Kingsbury’s Cardinals

With two of the worst defenses in the NFL statistically, this one, as most Seahawks games have been this year, could be a shootout.

4. Two pre-season NFC favourites looking for mid-season lifeline

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Who would’ve thought before the season started that both the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers would have losing records in their Week 9 meeting?

Both teams, who have plenty of talent offensively, have only scored more than 25 points once all season.

This one could be a sack fest as two of the NFL’s best defensive lines are up against two poor pass-protection units.

5. Arrowhead hosts the 2020 AFC Championship Game rematch on SNF

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Two of the league’s most in-form teams in the Kansas City Chiefs, and Tennessee Titans, battle it out to end the ninth NFL Sunday of the season.

This one sees an interesting battle between the Tennessee offense that runs the ball 52.1% of the time, and the Chiefs’ third-ranked rushing defense.

A win for either side will be very important when it comes to playoff seeding, because right now they both sit 5-2 and lead their respective divisions.

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Analysing Three Key Matchups For Saints Vs Ravens

There is newfound hope around this New Orleans Saints season, for that to continue they need a strong performance on Monday night when the 5-3 Baltimore Ravens come to town. There are three key matchups the Saints need to be on the right side of on Monday night for that hope to continue.

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Alvin Kamara Vs Roquan Smith And Patrick Queen

The Saints offense runs best when their best gets the ball early and often. Since Andy Dalton has taken over at QB for the Saints that’s happened, he’s fed Alvin Kamara as much as possible. With Dalton as the starter,  Kamara has played four games and is averaging 17.75 rush attempts per game and 8.5 targets per game. Pretty much 25 touches per game.  He’s amassed 323 rushing yards and 268 receiving, an average of 80.75 yards rushing and 67 receiving yards per game, equally 147.75 scrimmage yards per game.

What that should illustrate is how effective Alvin Kamara has been this season with Dalton starting. 

The Ravens on paper have two very good Alvin Kamara erasers (if there is such a thing). Right in time, the Ravens traded for Roquan Smith from the Chicago Bears, Smith is one of the better coverage LBs in the league and one of very few LBs in the league with the athletic profile to match up with Kamara. (4.51 40 time) 

Since entering the league Smith has 8 interceptions and 11 PBUs, whilst only allowing 3 touchdowns in his coverage, equalling an 83.6 passer rating when targeted, that number is even more impressive this season sitting at a 69.0 passer rating allowed when targeted.

His expected starting partner Patrick Queen is no slouch either, running a 4.5 40 time, however, a fast 40 does not mean you are an elite coverage player at LB. he’s been a bit more streaky in converge so far in his NFL career. In his NFL career so far he has allowed 6 touchdowns whilst in converge and has 2 interceptions and 3 PBUs, equalling a 108.5 passer rating when targeted. He’s faired slightly better so far this season by only allowing a 92.7 passer rating when targeted.

Despite this improvement, he’s been targeted a lot in the passing game, so far this season he’s been targeted 46 times, surrendering 38 receptions for 387 yards, a massive 279 yards of those have come after the catch. Something we’ve seen all of Kamara’s career is he is smooth and effective as anyone after the catch.

This is a really interesting matchup for Kamara this week, both Lbs have the athletic profile to keep up with AK and both are used in coverage a lot, Kamara against an LB is a matchup the Saints will always target but they might have to tread carefully this week, especially against Smith.

Saints Run Defense Vs Lamar Jackson

Anyone who’s watched the Saints indecent year knows that this defense, as good as it’s been against the run, has struggled massively against mobile QBs. Well, that will be tested again this week against the best running QB in the league, Lamar Jackson.

This season Jackson 553 rushing yards at an average of 7.4 yards per rushing attempt. His 553 rushing yards are 140 yards more than the Saints leading rusher ( Alvin Kamara). 

In their two matchups this season against rushing mobile QBs, the Saints defense allowed Marcus Mariota to rush for 72 yards on 12 attempts (6 YPC) and Kyler Murray rushed for 30 yards on 7 attempts (4.2 YPC).

This might not sound too bad, however, to combat the threat of these QBs rushing, the Saints have to deploy a much more conservative pass rush plan, that focuses more on keeping the QB in the pocket and less on sacking the QB. In both those games combined they pressured the QB 13 times, in the Raiders game alone the Saints had 22 pressures. 

This defense goes as the pass rush does, if the front 7 are getting after the QB the Saints defense effectively they are far better than if they are not, that’s not groundbreaking information but it doesn’t make it any less true.

The final, unfortunate consequence of the additional attention the defense is paying these QBs is that the RBs on those teams seem to have more success than they might have usually. Take the two games mentioned earlier Cordarrelle Patterson rushed for 120 yards at 5.4 YPC and Eno Benjamin rushed for 92 yards at 7.6 YPC. 

There is one way the Saints can turn the tide in their favour against Lamar’s rushing ability, forcing fumbles. Jackson has already fumbled 4 times this season on running plays, in his 4 seasons prior to this year he averages 10.75 fumbles per year on rushing plays. 

This has to be an area the Saints attack with Jackson on Monday, but with great care, one failed attempt at striping the ball could allow Jackson to break free for a massive gain.

Saints Slot Defender/s Vs Mark Andrews 

The Ravens are fairly thin on receiving threats, however, they do have the best receiving threat at TE in the league outside of Travis Kelce, in Mark Andrews.

To add to Lamar’s elite running ability he is also one if not the best passer in the intermediate area of the field (10-19 yards). So far this year Jackson has completed 66.7% of his passes when throwing between this yardage, for 502 yards,4 touchdowns and zero interceptions. These throws have averaged 11.4 yards per attempt.

If we look just specifically at the intermediate middle part of the field Jackson is completing 65.5% of his throws for 292 yards, 2 touchdowns and zero interceptions ( 10.1 yards per attempt). The reason I highlight this particular area of the field is this is where Mark Andrews does much of his damage, he’s one of the best players at attacking the seams in the NFL. 

Andrews has run 66.4% of his snaps from the slo0 so far this season, so it’s going to be interesting to see who the Saints use to cover the slot this week, it sounds like Marshon Lattimore will be out again this week. Leaving Paulson Adebo and Alontae Taylor to start at outside corner.

Andrews is a bit banged up he was listed yesterday as a DNP at Thursday’s practice, Ravens HC John Harbaugh has said that Andrew’s injuries are not serious, but anytime someone is listed as DNP, with multiple injuries ( shoulder and ankle in Andrews case) it is something worth monitoring. 

Leaving Chris Harris Jr, Justin Evans and P.J. Williams ( who’s expected to activated off IR this week) as the most logical options. Harris and Evans have both struggled so far this year, although Harris had a much better game last week, he is still one of the oldest starting DBs in the league.

P.J. Williams has had success in the slot previously but has since transitioned to playing more safety than CB. Personally, I’d still be tempted to give with Williams there this week, due to his more physical style of play and being the bigger of the three players.

Size does matter in this matchup, Andrews is a monster standing 6” 5  and weighing 247lbs per PFF. which is why you’d usually find a safety matched up on someone of this size. The Saints biggest coverage player would be safety Marcus Maye, but that would still be a size disadvantage and Andrews would likely relish the matchup from a coverage standpoint. This plan would mean Tyrann Mathieu would have to play more snaps as the deep safety has proven to not be the best way to deploy him so far this season.

Therefore as a hybrid safety/CB for me, P.J. Williams looks to be the best option 1 on 1, however, with the Ravens lack of weapons on the outside I’d expect Andrews to be double-teamed plenty this game.

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