The New Orleans Saints pass rush was a difference maker against the Texans
By Sean Nief
One major standout from the Saints in their win over the Texans last night was the defense’s pass rush. Getting to Deshaun Watson six times was definitely a difference-maker.
In the Saints matchup with the Texans on Monday Night Football, the team was playing behind for the majority of the game. Their first lead came five seconds into the fourth quarter. A major reason for this deficit throughout the contest was the Saints secondary. However, the pass rush looked strong throughout.
It began early, the team picking up two sacks in the first quarter alone. Malcom Brown and Shy Tuttle recorded a half-sack each during a third and long after Deshaun Watson was moved out of the pocket because of a Cameron Jordan chase-down. Later in the quarter, Jordan himself collected his first sack of the season as Watson was on the run, evading a blitzing Demario Davis.
Both of these sacks came in long yards to go situations and pressured the Texans offense to resort to some deep passes often. Luckily for the Texans, they were able to convert on many of these situations due to some loose zone coverage. But we’re here to talk about the strength of this defensive pass rush.
The defense went without another sack until the fourth quarter. However, they were able to accumulate 11 total quarterback hits throughout the game. These eleven QB hits came from eight different Saints defenders. Jordan and Trey Hendrickson had two of their own and everyone else had one. Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen made sure to mix up the defensive schemes and ensured that Watson was feeling the pressure from everywhere throughout the game.
The fourth quarter is where this pass rush made the difference. Four of the total six sacks were recorded in the fourth quarter. Alex Anzalone and P.J. Williams recorded sacks during this tight quarter. Trey Hendrickson had two of his own in this quarter on a 3rd and 15 and a 3rd and 10 late in the game.
In fact, three of the Saint’s sacks came on third-down situations. These crucial drive-stopping sacks became pivotal to stalling the Texan’s offense and allowing Brees and company to outscore them 13-7 in the final quarter.
On the other side of the ball, New Orleans’ line only allowed one sack all game to Whitney Mercilus. It was clear which defensive line had a stronger presence in this game. Without the constant pressure on the quarterback, it’s likely that Watson could have put the Saints away on multiple drives.
Also, just to be overly optimistic, the Saints defense only recorded 49 sacks in the regular season in 2018. These six sacks in week one already have the team at roughly an eighth of that total. It also has the team on an absurd pace to reach 96 sacks by the end of the season. This won’t happen but it helps to put that statistic into perspective. This defensive pass rush came to play.