The New Orleans Saints lost a 48-46 shootout against the San Francisco 49ers.
In what should’ve been a highly-skilled defensive battle, the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers turned into an offensive shootout. It was rough for both team’s defensive coordinators.
That said, let’s breakdown a few of the most critical plays during this game.
Sean Payton and the Saints’ offensive staff undoubtedly had many cover 3 beaters put into the game plan for the 49ers as they use cover 3 very frequently. Four verticals is the ultimate cover 3 beater.
This is because there are only three deep defenders, while there are four deep receivers, overloading each deep defender.
More from Who Dat Dish
- Are the Saints playoff contenders or pretenders in 2022?
- 3 takeaways from Saints unofficial depth chart ahead of preseason opener
- Saints 2022 Training Camp: Top 5 takeaways from Day 13
- 3 things to know about new Saints QB K.J. Costello
- Kirk Merritt could be a difficult player for the Saints to cut
The Saints use a slight variation to four verticals as Thomas is running a deep over route. The middle field safety inevitably gets distracted by Thomas, leaving Jared Cook and Taysom Hill covered by just Ahkello Witherspoon. Brees makes the right read throwing to Cook instead of Hill, however, the throw is terrible.
Given that the middle of the field is wide open, Brees should throw it Cooks’ inside shoulder, giving him an uncontested catch. In reality, Brees throws it high and outside, forcing Cooks to go up and catch it, giving Witherspoon a chance to smash Cook.
The hit caused the ball to hit the ground (which the officials didn’t pick up on), but more importantly knocked Cook out of the game, which certainly didn’t help the Saints’ winning chances.
It’s these small details (the misplaced throw from Brees) that often decide games but are invisible in the box score.
The Saints had just taken a 13-point lead, and with no end in sight of the Saints’ offense slowing down, the 49ers needed an emphatic response. Kyle Shanahan calls a flood/sail concept with a bootleg attached, which he usually attaches to his longer developing pass concepts.
The flood concept is generally designed to vacate space for the intermediate route, in this case a crossing route from Deebo Samuel. Samuel on this play is double covered; Tevin Coleman in the flat is covered by P.J Williams.
This just leaves Emmanuel Sanders who is running a corner-post. The double move leaves Vonn Bell in the dust, leaving Sanders isolated with Marcus Williams. Williams covers Sanders well, but Garoppolo delivers a dime from a perfect pocket, and Sanders does the rest.
The 49ers have two deep defenders and one underneath defender on the right side of the field. They have Dre Greenlaw isolated with Kamara; Ahkello Witherspoon is covering Thomas, with safety help over the top.
Something to note is that Kamara is aligned outside of the tackle, which is a very good indicator that he’s running a route. He runs an option route, choosing to go outside, and he gains separation.
However, Thomas also gains separation running what looks like a post-corner, leaving Brees with a simple decision. Brees puts it out in front of Thomas, giving him an easy catch and run TD to give the Saints the lead.
The Saints use cover 2 man. On the most important play of the game (and their season), Kyle Shanahan finds a way to get George Kittle, the best tight end in the league, isolated with Saints’ rookie Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.
Johnson is no match for George Kittle who runs an option route, choosing correctly to go outside as Johnson has inside leverage. Kittle subsequently stiff-armed the 49ers to victory.
It was a fitting end to the game of the season, and possibly the decade.