Breaking down how the New Orleans Saints’ offense performed against the Bucs

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NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - NOVEMBER 10: Head coach Sean Payton of New Orleans Saints calls a play during a NFL game against the Atlanta Falconsat the Mercedes Benz Superdome on November 10, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - NOVEMBER 10: Head coach Sean Payton of New Orleans Saints calls a play during a NFL game against the Atlanta Falconsat the Mercedes Benz Superdome on November 10, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

How to potentially control Michael Thomas

Another thing that I picked up while watching the game back was how frequently the Bucs used zone coverage and how soft they were playing them.

The Saints predictably were able to move the ball with ease and had many third and shorts, which was definitely one of the key points of Payton’s game plan. This allowed the Saints to control the ball for 21 minutes in the first half, which is very dominant.

Against a ball-control offense like the Saints, the Bucs had to play more aggressive coverages and force Brees to make tight-window throws.

Something slightly worrying is the Saints’ lack of big plays.

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Even though Thomas is an amazing player and is the receiving equivalent of Aaron Donald, and has broken the record for most receptions in the first 10 games of a season, and had the second-highest catch rate of all time last season, he is not much of a vertical threat.

The routes Thomas excels in are crossing, drag, and over routes, which are all horizontal routes. Another thing Thomas excels at is finding the soft spot of a zone, something he was able to show off frequently against the Bucs.

Like with Aaron Donald, if you treat Thomas as a normal player, he will undoubtedly take over the game and he lives up to his nickname of ‘cantguardmike’ on a weekly basis.

The way to best slow down Thomas, in my opinion, is to play the horizontal routes aggressively, play with inside and vertical help and play tight.

The best way to do this would be some variation of Cover 1 robber. Basic Cover 1 robber is man coverage across the board, four-man rush, single deep safety in the middle of the field, and a strong safety in the intermediate middle or hook zone of the field. As the CB’s have inside help they’re able to play with outside leverage.

This outside leverage puts them in a better position to cover out-breaking routes.

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