Observations From the Cheap Seats

Oct 30, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Tim Hightower (34) runs against the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 30, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Tim Hightower (34) runs against the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /

The Saints play their best game all season. There’s no doubt that this performance could catapult this team into next week against the 49ers.

Pass the remoulade sauce and the Tony Chachere’s please – a little flavoring is nice when one eats one’s words.  Happy to do so, though – the New Orleans Saints put together a performance that while difficult to stomach down the stretch, tasted divine in the end.

Per Saints play-by-play man Jim Henderson on WWL Radio during the broadcast of the game, 204 minutes had elapsed from the time the Saints last led the Seattle Seahawks until they took the lead again with 12:25 left in the game; a game they would eventually win 25-20.  In the words of the late Sam Cooke in one of my favorite songs of all time, “It’s been a long time comin’, but I know a change gon’ come.”

After donating a gift TD to Seattle on a Mark Ingram fumble recovery, the Saints pulled out the lunch pails and went to work, chipping away at Mount Seahawk piece by piece.  The Saints took advantage of Seahawk penalties aplenty and scored on their last 5 possessions.  While not all TD’s, against the Seattle defense, all that scoring is efficiency.

Despite not scoring a touchdown from less than a yard out late in the third quarter, the Saints continued to hang in there until the ball bounced their way.  As well, they had to withstand a 2-minute charge from the Seattle offense, and the game came down to the last play as Russell Wilson’s last ditch pass was a little deep out of the end zone.

Observations from the cheap seats:

  • There might never have been a better time to face Seattle than this week.  While the Black and Gold had many injuries, Seattle is similar with injured players on both sides of the ball, including mainstays Cam Chancellor and Michael Bennett. They were also short a left tackle, and Russell Wilson has been hobbled all season.  The Saints definitely caught them not at full strength.
  • Today marked the first time since the Oakland game that the Who Dats featured all of their offense.  While not all at 100%, Andrus Peat was present and played left guard, and Terron Armstead started at left tackle.  The only person on offense not available today was the recently brought up wide receiver Jake Lampman.
  • With all this health on offense, next week should be the week for health on defense.  We finally saw the mysterious figure that is Danell Ellerbe this week in limited action (certainly on a snap count).
  • Eligible for the first time this year will be Sheldon Rankins, who most certainly will be activated this week. And Delvin Breaux practiced for the first time this past week.  We may not get everyone back, but those are three huge pieces to a puzzle that in this mediocre NFL can mean a lot.
  • Nice to see muscle man Ed Hochuli as our referee today.  No one is more elaborate in explaining why the officials did what they did.  That guy loves him some football.  Who doesn’t love him? Seattle, particularly the defense and specifically Richard Sherman who was sour grapes after the game with their penalty parade.
  • To support Sherman’s claims, there was at least one pick that was a bit obvious.  The Saints do a great job of disguising the others and/or doing them where they are legal blocks.  On the flip side, for years the Seahawks have been one of the most penalized defenses in the league.
  • It’s their aggressive play and the fact that despite this being a hands-off league they are very hands-on.  They simply know that the officials won’t call every single holding and pass interference penalty they commit for fear of disrupting the game. Hochuli is known for having a tight no-nonsense crew.  Again, right time/right place for us to get that officiating crew.
  • Kenny Vaccaro was absent for a little while during the game, working on the sidelines with trainer Scottie Patton. He went into the locker room briefly then returned to the game. Guessing it was a continuation of the ankle injury that he’s been fighting through.
  • Did you notice some of the names of the studs for today’s game on defense?  Jairus Byrd and Paul Kruger’s names were among those who had decent contributions. Byrd led the team in tackles – that was not a misprint.
  •  Kruger registered a sack. Glad those guys earned a paycheck today. Ellerbe made his way onto the field and in limited action got in on 5 tackles. When healthy he is a difference maker.  But the defensive play of the day has to go to the interception by Nate Stupar.  Simply one of the most athletic plays I’ve seen any Saints’ defender make in years.
  • Also noticed – great day by kicker Wil Lutz, who not only made all 4 of his field goals, including a 53 yarder but made a big tackle on a kickoff return.
  • Sean Payton likes this team. Saw him handing out pats a couple of times on the sidelines. One was to special teams coach Greg McMahon. Early on Mike Mauti came close to blocking a punt. So on the next punt, McMahon put on an all out punt block, pulling in the wide outs who block the gunners, essentially giving us 10 guys on the block attempt. The Black and Gold didn’t get there, but they made a nice effort and it was a good call.
  • Payton passed by McMahon and gave him a slap on the rear for a nice effort. Later on a Michael Thomas first down reception, in which he stiff armed a receiver and got some hard earned yards after the catch, he got up after being tackled and as he began making his way back toward the huddle, Payton stepped onto the field and slapped his hand repeatedly.  It was easy to tell the old coach was enjoying the game, the competition and this team.
  • The Black and Gold saved the best/worst for last. The Saints really played a solid overall game. Seattle is a very good NFL team and they make you earn what you get. The Saints earned much, including a lot of respect. No one earned more than Tim Hightower. Seattle’s run defense is quite noteworthy. Last season in the Carolina Panther’s playoff victory over Seattle, running back Jonathan Stewart rushed for over 100 yards.
  •  It was the first time since November 2014 that Seattle’s defense allowed a single player to run for over 100 yards.  So far this year it’s already happened three times, including Hightower’s game. But Hightower’s game wouldn’t have been possible without the poor play of Mark Ingram, fumbling for the second time in as many weeks.  Ingram never saw the field again Sunday.  There should be a lesson learned there…