Go ahead, Saints, make my day
The great, the good, the bad, the ugly against Atlanta & more
In a game that should be remembered for Saints quarterback Drew Brees reaching a major NFL career milestone, Sunday’s 43-37 win over the Falcons will be remembered for its ending. It was all a game a viewer could want. It was high scoring, stars on both teams put on masterful performances, momentum swung, and it took overtime to be settled. But for rabid Saints fans, not to mention the players and coaches, there were concerning moments and a considerable lot to improve upon going forward. Still, a win at Atlanta is a win at Atlanta. With that, here is what was great, good, bad, and ugly about the Atlanta game, and what to look for against the Giants.
Of all the amazing performances on Sunday, including those of Atlanta QB Matt Ryan and WR Calvin Ridley, Brees was truly awesome and won NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. He was 39 of 49 passing, a 79.6 completion percentage, for 396 yards and three touchdowns and had three rushing attempts for seven yards and, most importantly, two touchdowns, including the spin & score that sent the game to overtime and the eventual game winner when he leaped over the offensive line and stretched the ball over the goal line.
The greatest player to wear the Saints’ uniform also became the NFL’s all-time leader in completions when he passed Brett Favre’s record of 6,300. Brees has 6,326 and counting.
Wide receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara are rising stars and perfect compliments in this Brees-run offense. Each had double-digit catches and topped the century mark in yardage. Thomas had 10 receptions for 129 yards, while Kamara had 15 catches for 124 yards. On the ground, the back had 16 carries for 66 yards, a 4.1 yard per carry average.
Brees hit nine different receivers in the game. Ted Ginn Jr., Cameron Meredith, and Zach Line each caught a TD.
On the other side of the ball, the defense found the pass rush. Cam Jordan had two sacks, and Marcus Davenport, the Saints first pick in the 2018 Draft, recorded his first.
The run defense was superb. The Saints held the Falcons to 48 yards on 22 carries. Through three games, the are allowing just 3.05 yards per carry, best in the league, and have the sixth best run defense in NFL.
Defensive end Alex Okafor’s blocked punt was fantastic and led to Meredith’s score.
While it’s tough to say something nice about the Falcons, they deserve recognition for honoring Tom Benson on the video boards in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. That was a classy move.
The Saints secondary continued to struggle. Ryan was 26-of-34 passing for 374 yards, a 74.3 completion percentage, five touchdown passes, zero interceptions, and a 148.1 quarterback rating. Ridley, a rookie who may torment the Saints for years to come, had seven receptions for 146 yards, and three touchdowns, including a 75-yard bomb, in his first outing against the Black & Gold. Julio Jones added five catches for 96 yards, including a 58-yard play.
Cornerback Patrick Robinson suffered an injury in the third quarter that turned out to be a season-ending ankle break, forcing the Saints to look for potential replacements.
Through three games, the Saints have given up 25 passes for 15 or more yards. It’s a major reason why they are dead last in points allowed per game, 34.3.
The Penalties. The Saints are drawing too many yellow flags. The team has been penalized 23 times this season, 10 on offense for 80 yards, 10 on defense for 139 yards, and three on special teams for 31 yards.
The ugliest of the season came against the Falcons when defensive tackle David Onyemata made a boneheaded hit on the Falcons long snapper on a field goal attempt. In an effort to protect a defenseless player, the NFL, for several years now, has had a rule in place against making contact with the center on special teams play. The penalty, essentially, gave the Falcons an additional four points, as they got the ball first and goal and went on to score a touchdown.
Fans might remember Onyemata was flagged twice for roughing the passer penalties in the season opener against Tampa Bay. The NFL fined him $40,108 for the illegal hits, which was more than the $39,375 he makes per game.
The Saints secondary will be looking to make a brand new start of it in old New York when they take on Eli Manning and the Giants. The best thing the Saints can do to help them is to keep up the pass rush they found late against Atlanta going forward. Opposing receivers are blowing by our cornerbacks and our safeties haven’t been able to help often enough in deep coverage. Their play has to improve or the teams preseason hopes and expectations will not be met.
Brees could claim another major NFL record this week. With 71,523 career passing yards, he needs 418 yards to break Peyton Manning’s NFL record of 71,940 career passing yards. Brees is averaging 359.3 yards per game this season, but 418 is not out of the realm of possibility. He had 439 against the Buccaneers in Week 1. If he doesn’t break the record in New York, he will likely capture it against Washington in a Week 5 Monday night matchup in the Superdome.
The Saints QB is also chasing Manning’s career touchdown record. Brees has 496 career touchdowns and needs to toss 44 more to surpass Manning’s 539. That will probably come some time next season, but with 13 more TDs, he will move into second place past Brett Favre, who has 508.