The New Orleans Saints are now 1-3 and are losing a heartbreaker 28-25 to the Minnesota Vikings at Spurs Stadium in London. Sadly, the Saints are what their record says. A losing team, with far too much talent to be in the position their in. Penalties, turnovers and a last-second double doink missed field goal. led to defeat today and staring at despair.
Let’s breakdown what went wrong for the Saints yesterday.
I’m trying a different recap style, let me know which you prefer—this or my usual quarter by quarter.
Let’s start with the Saints’ offense, overall, I thought the Dalton-led unit was an improvement over the four back fractures Jameis Winston experience. Dalton still struggled to start the game with 2 quick three-and-outs.
Crucially though, he capitalised on the Vikings turnover (shout out Honey Badger with the pick) and marched the Saints down the field on a type of drive the Saints have been missing and sustained a 12-play 60-yard touchdown drive. With a crucial pass too early in the drive to Chris Olave on third and eight. This was a play the offense hadn’t been making.
Sadly, Dalton couldn’t fix the offensive penalties or the fumbles. The Saints offense had two offensive penalties on the first drive one, a false start which turned a third and six into a third and 11. The worse penalty came the play after, the Saints managed to convert the third and 11 with a very well-executed screen to Mark Ingram. It was called back by an ineligible man downfield penalty on Cesar Ruiz.
Instead of first and ten at the Saints 35, it ended up third and 16 at the Saints 19. Subsequently, the Saints had to punt.
The aforementioned fumble, now that the game has finished, was one of the day’s biggest plays, which is a shame for Dalton if he did play very well overall.
The Saints got the ball back with just over a minute to go in the first half down 10-7 after a Vikings field goal. With two timeouts and a chance to get some points on the board before the half, the Saints also go the ball first to start the second half.
The first play, Dalton is sacked and stripped by Dalvin Tomlinson. Giving the Vikings the ball on the Saints’ 20, the defense held well but the Vikings still kicked a field goal. This was essentially a gifted three points. Now the Saints enter halftime down 13-7 instead of maybe 10-10 at worst 10-7.
The second half was a totally different story for the Saints offense. We finally saw some sustained offense. They went punt, touchdown, touchdown, field before the missed field goal to end the game (more on that shortly)
The touchdown drives were well put together and none of the scoring drives were less than eight plays. This shows the ability to make consistent plays.
For example, on the Saints first touchdown drive Dalton hit Marquez Callaway (who played well today) for a five-yard pass on fourth and four to extend the drive, which as mentioned ended in a TD. A bulldozing one-yard TD run by Latavius Murray.
Murray had a great first game back with the Saints. He provided a spark in the second half, HC Dennis Allen even commented on it in his post-game press conference. He ended with 11 carries for 57 yards and a TD and looked like the best RB on the field today.
The o-line seemed to hold up well (hard to tell fully watching in the stadium) only gave up two sacks and the Dalton didn’t look under pressure too much. Could be wrong on a watch back.
Some positive quick hitters:
Chris Olave, led the team in catches and yards again (four catches for 67 yards and a TD) and looked open all day.
Marquez Callaway, he made some big plays today. Previously mentioned 4th down catch and later on that drive a huge 33-yard contested catch down the left sideline to set the Saints up for TD.
Taysom Hill, sprinkled in the QB power is still really good especially inside the five, seems almost automatic.
Saints o-line- from what I could it looked like they played very well, with plenty of open holes in the run game and Dalton didn’t look to be under a huge amount of pressure.
One of my key matchups for this game was stopping Dalvin Cook and the running game. The Saints Definitely did that today. Apart from a rogue 14-yard rush in the fourth quarter, the Saints kept Cook bottled up for 3.8 yards per carry on 20 attempts.
The d-line looked very stout against the run and much better rushing the passer, d-lineman Kentavius Street (1), Cam Jordan (0.5) and Marcus Davenport (0.5) all had sacks and multiple QB hits. LB’s Demario Davis and Pete Werner looked great again, especially against the run. Davis also had a sack.
Unfortunately, what I thought shutting down the run game would stop, didn’t.
Play-action passing, I’m interested to see what his final stats were from play-action passes but certainly from the stadium, it seemed like Cousins shredded the defense from it.
Adam Thielen dominated early, he had five of his seven catches in the first half.
Justin Jefferson dominated late, with six of his ten catches coming in the second half. Two of those were huge plays, one for 41 yards, two Saints players did run into each other leaving him wide open but either way, the play was made, this set up a Vikings field goal.
The second catch was a dagger, a 39-yard catch one on one Vs Lattimore. Which set the Vikings up for the field goal to go up 28-25 with only 24 seconds left. Jefferson definitely got the better of Lattimore in this matchup. He ended with ten catches for 147 yards seemed like all if not most were when Lattimore was in coverage.
(10 targets, 7 catches 93 yards, per PFF)
Some positive quick hitters:
Cam Jordan- Looked a terror today, with 0.5 sacks but had 3 other pressures per PFF
Pete Werner- again! he’s looking like an all-pro. PFF charted him as having 5 defensive stops in the run game.
Kentavius Street– had a sack today and another pressure. The interior d-line has been disappointing so far this season, if he can start to step up that would really help.
Complete and utter shambles.
This Saints special teams unit is supposed to be one of the best in the league. Right now, they look like one of the worst. They allowed multiple good kick and punt returns in this game and have all season.
Deonte Harty fumbled a punt that would have given the Saints good starting position at their own 44. Down six. Instead, the Vikings were given great field position, which ended in another field goal.
Harty looks checked out since his contract talks in the summer didn’t go his way. He looks far away from his all-pro returning skills of previous years.
Finally, two special teams’ errors on the same drive again cost the Saints another three points. The Vikings had a good return out to their own 30. An unnecessary roughness penalty for a late hit out of bounds added 15 yards. The Saints’ defense held them to a quick three and out.
Then, the Saints feel for a fake punt, not just a fake punt but a fake punt that gained the Vikings 13 yards. Which again put the Vikings in field goal range.
This part of the game shouldn’t be a problem, the Saints prioritise players with special teams ability. They have the same coach that has led them to be one of the top units in the league over the last few years, so what gives? The players need to execute better of course but it has to come down to coaching as well sooner or later.
Some positive quick hitters:
Will ‘Big Nutz’ Lutz, made a 60-yarder in the clutch to tie the game. Then he nearly nailed a 61-yarder to send the game to overtime unfortunately it double-doinked.
Even with the penalties, the turnovers the general sloppiness. The Saints could have won this game. If they can out of their own way they can be a playoff team. They came that close today without QB1 (Jamies Winston) WR1 (Michael Thomas) and RB1 (Alvin Kamara).
The next game at home against Seattle is now a must-win. There’s no more margin for error.
Last point, the NFL have a severe officiating problem, the illegal use of hands to face penalty today on Tyrann Mathieu was awful, it kept the Vikings on the field on a drive they then scored a TD on. That definitely cost the Saints today.
There are terrible calls like this every week.
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