Analyzing the New Orleans Saints stunning blowout win over Tampa Bay
Where did this Saints defense come from?
Over the first eight weeks, New Orleans was allowing 28 points per game and had particularly been vulnerable in the vertical passing game.
So, naturally, they held the Bucs to three points and 194 total net yards. Meanwhile, Tom Brady had a 40.4 passer rating this game, and that’s after he had posted a passer rating of 104.9 or higher in five of his past six outings.
I can continue to cite different statistics, but the overall point is that the Saints absolutely dominated defensively, which is something that very few people saw coming.
As a major proponent of the immense value of pass coverage, it would be out of character for me to start anywhere else.
Cornerback Marshon Lattimore’s issues have been a major concern, but Mike Evans was on the opposing team, which prompted him to revert back to being the star cornerback he has been labeled as:
Evans actually was Tampa Bay’s leading receiver. That’s because, despite New Orleans’ previous issues guarding Chris Godwin, the star receiver was limited to to 3 receptions and 41 yards, while Antonio Brown only had 31 yards with the same amount of receptions.
Worried about their middle-of-the-field-coverage, which prompted them to trade for linebacker Mekhi Becton? You probably feel better after Rob Gronkowski’s two-yard performance.
Then, there’s the pass rush, which harassed Brady all game long. They only totaled 3 sacks, but according to Seth Galina of Pro Football Focus, they accumulated 32 pressures, which is a very lofty number.
Sean Payton told the NBC Sports crew that it’s ideal to be able to consistently hit the quarterback, and although that is as obvious of a cliche as it gets, the constant pressuring of Brady clearly negatively affected him.
Generally, the Saints have relied on their linebackers and defensive backs on blitz packages to pressure the opposing quarterback. In this game, however, per Galina, 30 of their 32 pressures came from their defensive line, with twelve of them coming from standouts Trey Hendrickson and David Onyemata.
Given New Orleans’ pass coverage woes, it is imperative that they can rush the passer without sacrificing any of their coverage players to do so. With Hendrickson and Onyemata having very strong seasons, in addition to the presence of Cameron Jordan, Marcus Davenport, and even the likes of Malcom Brown, Malcolm Roach, and Sheldon Rankins (once he returns from injury), they should be able to do so.
A glimmer of hope for the Saints defensively was that they were being hit on third downs, in the red zone, and with penalties, which are three unstable areas that were likely going to eventually regress in their favor.
Well, Tampa Bay converted only one of nine third-down conversion attempts, didn’t score on their only red zone attempt, and New Orleans only had three penalties. The Saints have always had a lot of talent on their defense, and with them finally, on the right side of variance, this improvement may not be a fluke.