Fixable issues in Saints 20-0 win over Dolphins


There were issues to be sure but none not fixable in the Saints 20-0 win over the Dolphins in London. A healthier team, a bye week and the Detroit Lions ahead.

You’ll often hear people say, “a win is a win”. Sometimes that phrase comes when a team is outplayed but wins. Sometimes it comes up when they sneak away with a win. And then there are the times when the game is simply not very good. When the team doesn’t play to its potential but they still manage a win.

This would be the appropriate option for the New Orleans Saints as they shut out the Miami Dolphins, 20-0, in London. There aren’t many true “must win” games this early in the NFL season. But for a young defense and a spotty offense, finishing the first 4 games at .500 was tremendously important to set up for the second portion of the season.

Many would look at the score, see a shutout win for the Saints and think “Wow, the Saints played fantastic”. Not so much, at least not in the first half. The first half of the game saw entirely too many stoppages by the teams and officiating crew.

The 1st half

The first quarter saw each team possess the ball once, and the Saints’ first possession took them into the second quarter. So the game was slow to start. Both offenses moved the ball well: Miami throwing an interception on the first possession and New Orleans missing a field goal. After that, 5 punts between the two teams slowed the pace to a crawl before New Orleans escaped the first half putting a field goal on the board.

The 2nd half

The second half was better if you are a Who Dat. Don’t read more exciting into that. The Saints were in hard hat and lunch pail mode, scoring on 3 of their 5 second half possessions. The opened the second half with a 12-play drive that resulted in a touchdown. Two possessions later, a 12-play drive resulted in a field goal, followed by an 11-play drive resulting in a TD.

Meanwhile the Saints defense was being downright stingy in the second half. They allowed only 60 yards in the 16 plays they were on the field for. If ever there was a recipe for a solid Saints team win, it’s 41 offensive plays and possessing the ball for almost 21 of the 30 minutes in the second half.

This was a new type of Saints team. The ground game wasn’t tremendous. But the Saints were content in the short passing game that made them so good in years past.  Using short shots to running backs and slot receivers almost like handoffs. While the Dolphins’ front gave the offensive line a little trouble, the Saints’ scheme mostly neutralized them. And with the short passing game, there was little time to get to Drew Brees.

Cleaning up

More from Who Dat Dish

There are always things to look at as issues that need cleaning up. We focused entirely too much on Michael Thomas, and though he had a good game, we need other receivers more involved. It can’t simply be Thomas, and then Alvin Kamara from the backfield or the slot. We didn’t run extremely well, but there was enough there to keep the ball away from Miami when necessary. We still haven’t found a use for Adrian Peterson. And the penalties… oh the penalties.

But the good well outweighed the bad. The Saints contained Jay Ajayi who can be a tough runner. They didn’t allow Miami’s offense any momentum after the first drive. Miami isn’t a strong offense but it’s important to make sure they know that, and the Saints did.

The defense

The Saints defense continues to improve. Ken Crawley came up with an interception to end the Dolphins’ opening drive, then nearly grabbed a second later in the first half. The Saints’ D contributed 4 more sacks and 5 tackles for losses. That’s 11 sacks in 4 games if anyone is counting.

They aren’t as good as we want them to be at getting after the passer yet, constantly disrupting them, but they aren’t doing poorly. Most importantly is the yardage given up. After giving up an average of 512.5 yards per game in the first 2 games, the Saints have only given up 474 yards total in the last 2 games. The much-maligned defense seems to be coming of age. And the offense seems to have found a stride as well.

Next: Saints win ugly in London, shutout Dolphins 20-0

The bye week is welcome as we should be able to get Zach Strief healthier as well as being close to seeing the return of Terron Armstead and Willie Snead by the time we face Detroit in the dome on Oct. 15. While it may take another minute to get these guys all on the same page when they are all there and healthy, it will be nice to see what the offense is truly supposed to look like at full go.

If you were looking for the high-octane, fast-scoring, get it and go Saints offense on Sunday, you likely didn’t enjoy your breakfast and java. 19 penalties total for 161 yards will often slow a game to a crawl. And to slog over Miami, not known to be a powerhouse team won’t make you happy. But when you see that the defense pitched a shutout and the Saints won convincingly, the postgame brunch tasted much better.