After Further Review: Five takes from Saints win over Washington

Published: Oct. 10, 2021 at 10:08 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Take one: Roller coaster win

It’s the type of game that was pretty indicative of the Saints season so far. On Sunday in Washington, there were a lot of ups...and a lot of downs throughout the game. But overall, things turned out to be a net positive for the team.

The ride started right off the jump. In the first quarter alone, the Saints had an interception, a 72-yard touchdown, a fumble, and a roughing the kicker penalty. In the second quarter, they scored a touchdown, missed an extra point, and hit a Hail Mary.

They also took a completely different route to win than they normally do .

The Saints lost the time of possession battle, rushed for less than a 100 yards, and only converted four third downs. Plus, they turned the ball over twice, and even struggled against the run at times.

To make up for their normal strengths, the Saints relied on chunk plays, situational defense, and special teams.

It certainly wasn’t perfect. But in the end, all that mattered was the final score.

The Saints won 33-22 and improved to 3-2.

Take Two: Red zone defense

The stats suggest Washington should’ve dominated offensively. They held a 13-minute edge in time of possession, and ran the ball effectively. That dominance, however, never came to fruition. The reason is simple. While the Saints struggled in other parts of the field, they excelled in the red zone.

Washington was inside the Saints’ 20-yard line five times. Those five drives resulted in: two touchdowns, two field goals, and a Paulson Adebo interception. Had any of those three drives resulted in seven instead of three, the game could’ve resulted in a much different outcome.

Adebo’s interception was huge. At the time, Washington responded with a nine-play drive after the Saints tied the score up in the second quarter. Taylor Heinicke completed five passes in a row to get his squad to the Saints 16-yard line. Then, he made a terrible decision on a pass to underthrow Curtis Samuel.

Later in the third quarter, Washington went 14 plays, chewed up 7:26 off the clock, and got inside the Saints 5-yard line. On third and goal, Heinicke tested Marshon Lattimore, who once again rose to the challenge with a pass break-up. The score was 20-13 at the time. A touchdown there would’ve swung momentum back in their favor. Instead, Washington went all that way, and only came away with three points.

The Saints defense wasn’t dominant Sunday. But overall, they bent but didn’t break and rose up when they had to inside the 20.

Take Three: Gillikin’s island

It’s rare to leave a game feeling like the punter was the most valuable player, but that’s exactly what occurred Sunday.

Blake Gillikin was simply magnificent for the Saints. He pinned three punts inside the 5-yard line, including a 60-yard work of art that pushed WFT back to their own 1-yard line.

That punt essentially set up the Hail Mary (which we’ll talk about next). Washington got the ball, ran three short runs, and punted it back with eight seconds. By flipping the field, putting that punt at the one, instead of a touchback, the Saints got the ball back near midfield.

That’s well within the range for what came next….

Take Four: Hail Winston

First things first, Winston must be living right. Sunday was the third time this season he connected on a prayer in the end zone. Afterwards, Winston said it was all God after the game.

As for the Hail Mary play, it was a thing of beauty. The Saints got the ball at the 49-yard line with eight seconds left, and decided to let it fly instead of throwing a shorter pass, setting up a field goal.

Winston was throwing to a spot on the field. He put it up and gave his guy a chance. Marquez Callaway wasn’t supposed to be the ‘jump’ player on that play. Instead, he’s supposed to be the trailer and catch the tip. His role changed when the other receivers were jammed, and he essentially beat them downfield. Callaway found the ball and went up and got it.

After watching the replay, I’m convinced Washington was caught off guard at the Saints going for the shot, instead of trying to play for the field goal. When the ball was in the air, they all appeared to be a little shellshocked as each of them watched as Callaway came down with the ball.

It was the biggest play of the game, and gave the Saints some momentum after an uneven first half of play.

Take Five: Other observations

  • Winston finished with a season-high in passing yards and his explosive pass plays made a difference. However, he was only 15/30 and turned the ball over twice. All in all, Winston’s performance mirrored the team in general: hot and cold.
  • Winston had Taysom Hill open on his interception. Winston underthrew the pass, and was hit as he threw it. On his fumble, Winston held onto the ball a count too long as he tried to reset and get to another receiver.
  • One week after getting no targets, Alvin Kamara had eight in the passing game Sunday. He finished with five receptions and 21 overall touches. That’s a good number for Kamara.
  • Carl Granderson’s roughing the punter penalty was costly. What should have been a punt back to the Saints, allowed Washington to score their first touchdown of the game.
  • Kenny Stills has to be more aware of where he’s at on the field. On his fourth quarter catch on 2nd and 6, he didn’t get to the sticks on his route. The Saints ended up having to go for it on 4th and inches on their own side of the field two plays later, when they should have had a first down on his reception.
  • Adam Trautman had his best game of the season. He needed it in the worst way. Traut has struggled all year before Sunday, but had two catches against Washington. His second catch went for 32 yards, and helped set up the Saints final touchdown.
  • Lattimore looked like the shutdown corner the Saints paid him to be Sunday.
  • Cody Parkey missed two extra points Sunday. This team needs Wil Lutz back in the worst way.
  • 3-2 vs 2-3 may only be a one game difference, but under Sean Payton, it’s been a very important distinction. Every season they’ve been 3-2 or better after five games, they’ve made the postseason. Every year they’ve been 2-3 or worse, they’ve missed them.

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