Remember that list of ten concerns I posted yesterday…assuming you read it. Well the Saints addressed all of it and then some.
Kick and punt coverage was vastly improved. Head Coach Sean Payton demonstrated that he is committed to a balanced offense by utilizing the run. The Saints special teams blocked a Minnesota Vikings’ extra point. And the defense won the game the old fashioned way, not through a plethora of takeaways, but by forcing the visiting team to punt. The Saints defense didn’t give up a big run.
Sure the score wasn’t pretty. That said, I saw a defense that played better in this game than they did most of last season- and in this case against a quality team.
The offense struggled but it should be noted that Minnesota had one of the best defenses in the league last season, racking up 48 sacks- tops in the NFL. The Saints’ offense will get back to their explosive ways soon enough but I really hope that I see the defense that played on Thursday night show up for the rest of the games this season.
The nine points allowed by the Black and Gold “D” was the fewest since the Saints beat Tampa Bay 38-7 on November 22, 2009.
The Saints’ defense allowed only 91 yards on the ground and kept Vikings running back Adrian Peterson from making the kind of big run that plagued New Orleans much of the 2009 season. Peterson’s best run was for 14 yards.
Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre showed his age or lack of preparation (perhaps both), completing 15 of 27 passes (55%) for 171 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Saints quarterback Drew Brees didn’t have a Pro Bowl performance but did well, connecting with 27 of 36 passes (75%) for 237 yards, a touchdown and no INTs. As usual, Brees spread the wealth amongst his talented receiver corps, with eight players making at least 2 catches.
Though running back Pierre Thomas averaged less than 4 yards per carry, PT did have one of the team’s two touchdowns and provided a key first down late in the fourth quarter. His 19 rushing attempts in the face of Minnesota’s talented front 7 indicates that the head coach is cognizant of how his team succeeded in 2009 and that he aerial circus that allowed Brees to challenge Dan Marino’s single season passing record won’t be reappearing in 2010.
The biggest drawback of the game was the two missed field goals by Garrett Hartley (you might have to remember his game winning field goal that advanced the Saints to the Super Bowl in order to restrain yourself from pelting the ex-hero with vitriol). Hopefully the game was an aberration for Hartley. If it’s not, then his career with the Saints will be an aberration.
The Saints’ victory over the Vikings, regardless of the modest margin, should be a point of great joy. The win puts the team two games over the Vikings for the post-season tiebreaker while also showing that the defense has continued to improve under coordinator Gregg Williams.
Of the five critical games at the front of the 2010 season, the Saints defeated what is arguably their toughest opponent, building momentum for the next four games while taking a major step towards achieving the Two Dat.
In precisely the kind of game the Saints used to find exotic ways to lose, the Black and Gold made adjustments, played small ball and came up big.