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The Fleur-De-Lis Report: Saints look to clean up last week's miscues ahead of week two game against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers

1 year 10 months 6 days ago Sunday, September 18 2022 Sep 18, 2022 September 18, 2022 9:03 AM September 18, 2022 in Sports
Source: WBRZ

The New Orleans Saints are back home in the Dome taking on Tom Brady and the Tampa Buccaneers in week two. Last week, the Saints escaped Atlanta with a win despite being down 16 points in the fourth quarter. Much of this week’s practice focused on cleaning up several areas of concern ahead of today’s game.

AREAS OF CONCERN

Throughout the first three quarters of last week’s game, the Saints left a lot to be desired. The biggest issue I noticed was breakdowns in pass protection. The offensive line struggled severely against Atlanta’s pass rush. Quarterback (QB) Jameis Winston was sacked 4 times and couldn’t really find a rhythm early due to the constant pressure. Throughout camp, the offensive line was a group that gained attention following the injury to rookie Trevor Penning. There are serious questions surrounding the depth of this group and how well they could play together as a lineup. Seemingly, things improved slightly in the fourth quarter which in turn helped Winston and the offense complete the 16 point comeback. 

Aside from pass protection, the Saints didn’t get much from their All-Pro runningback (RB) Alvin Kamara. He finished the game with 9 carries for 39 yards and only caught 3 passes for 7 yards. There just weren't many opportunities for him and to make matters worse, he would exit the game in the 4th quarter with an injury. I’ll elaborate on that later.

Defensively, this is a unit with a lot of expectations going into this season but opening day wasn’t their best effort. They struggled containing Cordarrelle Patterson and the Falcon’s rushing attack. Over the last few seasons, the Saints defense has been one of best at stopping the run but last Sunday, they surrendered 120 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries to Patterson. This created a multitude of problems as Atlanta was able to utilize the play action and dominate the time of possession. Along with that, Cam Jordan and the defensive line didn’t have that dominant start to the season I thought they would have. Unlike Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota would not be sacked at all and faced little pressure throughout the contest.

This game also exposed how much cornerback (CB) Paulson Adebo is needed back. Justin Evans got the start in the nickel spot left behind by CJ Gardner-Johnson and actually played well. Bradley Roby however struggled on the outside after many raved about his performance during camp. According to Adebo, he believes his rehab is going as planned so hopefully we will see him back on the field soon. With him back in the lineup, I think it will make things a lot easier on guys who're currently playing roles that may not be natural fits.

Despite these issues, the Saints were able to complete the largest comeback in franchise history largely in part to how the offense suddenly found a rhythm in the 4th quarter. The biggest positive to take away is how well the team's new trio of receivers played. Jarvis Landry was perhaps the most productive, catching 7 balls for 114 yards. Going into the year, many believed Landry would be more of an asset in the slot but Sunday he displayed his ability to be a deep ball threat as well. Late in the game, he made the critical play hauling in a 40 yard pass from Winston to help set up the team's game-winning field goal. Rookie Chris Olave didn’t stuff the stat sheet but he did make big catches in key moments including converting a 2-point conversion early in the 4th. Offensive Coordinator Pete Carmichael found creative ways to get Olave involved including taking a page from Ohio State’s playbook on that 2-point play. Lastly, many wondered how Michael Thomas would look after being out for nearly two years. Judging by his performance against Atlanta, I’d say he’s fully healthy and nearly back to peak form. Thomas racked in two touchdowns and was the biggest target for Winston down the stretch. Whenever a play needed to be made, Thomas was there to make it, which is what you’d expect from your #1 WR. 

Also, not enough can be said about how Jameis Winston performed in that final period. In the 4th quarter alone, he threw for 213 yards and finished the quarter with a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3. He was spectacular to say the least. Winston showed a lot of confidence and poise despite being down big which is a good sign going forward as the Saints QB1. 

OBSERVATIONS FROM THIS WEEK

Wednesday’s injury report featured 11 players including several starters on both the offense and defense. Jameis Winston briefly went in the medical tent during last week’s game and now we know that was likely due to a back injury. Winston did practice all three days but he was limited. His injury doesn’t seem to be major and he's still expected suit up today. Other names on the injury report included Mark Ingram (ankle), Dwayne Washington (hamstring), Landon Young (hip), Calvin Throckmorton (illness), Tre’Quan Smith (shoulder), Cam Jordan (hip), Alontae Taylor (hip), Marcus Maye (ankle), of course Paulson Adebo (ankle), and the most notable and concerning name being Alvin Kamara (rib).

Sources say Kamara suffered a rib cartilage injury Sunday causing him to exit the game early. He participated in limited practice Wednesday but didn’t practice at all the rest of the week. Sources confirmed this morning that he is not expected to play, though that could change by the time the team announces today's inactives. Earlier this week, the Saints brought back veteran RB Latavius Murray to the practice squad. I believe this move serves as insurance if the injury to Kamara develops into a more long-term ordeal. 

Safety (S) Marcus Maye was a full go Thursday and Friday after being limited Wednesday. Defensive End (DE) Cam Jordan and Offensive lineman (OL) Landon Young also participated fully during Friday’s practice. Everyone else remained limited all three days but are still expected to play. 

As bad as the Saints injury report seems, Tampa Bay’s report might actually be worse. The Bucs could potentially be down a few of their top receivers today. Mike Evans, Julio Jones, and Russell Gage are all questionable to play. The Bucs are confident Mike Evans and Russell Gage will be able to compete but Julio Jones is a game time decision. Chris Godwin is out completely after suffering a hamstring injury last week against Dallas. Evans missed only one day of practice this week rehabbing a calf injury but remained limited thereafter. Jones missed most of the week with a knee injury but returned to practice Friday in a limited role. 

Tampa’s offensive line continues to take setbacks. OL Donovan Smith didn’t practice all week and is considered doubtful to play as he deals with an elbow injury. All-Pro Tristen Wirfs participated in limited practice but his status remains questionable as he tries to come back from an abdomen injury. However, sources say he is expected to play.

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE GAME

I couldn’t imagine a more evenly matched game in the NFL this week besides these two teams. It was hard for me to come up with a prediction because honestly, this game can go either way. So I’ll try to make a case for both teams before offering my final thoughts.

Starting with the Saints, Tom Brady has had little success against Dennis Allen’s defense since joining Tampa Bay in 2020. The Saints are 4-0 against the Bucs in that time frame and throughout Brady’s illustrious career, no team has sacked him more times outside of AFC East teams that saw him twice a season for 20 years. 

Also going for the Saints is how they have pressured Brady into several uncanny mistakes. Brady currently has a 6 to 8 TD/INT ratio against New Orleans, which is by far the worst in his career against a single opponent. 

Despite the win in week one, the Bucs offense struggled to cash in red zone opportunities and were forced to settle for field goals. I don’t think that will work this week against the Saints. Obviously health will also play an important role in this game. If Mike Evans and Julio Jones aren’t able to play, that will be a huge blow to their offense. Their offensive line is in shambles which could bode well for the Saints’ defensive line that's had great success against this unit in the past.

The case for Tampa Bay is first and foremost, never count out Tom Brady. He’s the greatest of all time for a reason. Aside from that, the Saints can’t afford to start off slow like how they did against Atlanta. This Bucs team is too experienced and too good, especially on the defensive side. Alvin Kamara's absence could have a huge affect on the Saints offense as they'll be without one of their most dynamic playmakers. Mark Ingram will be expected to lead the ground game for New Orleans. 

Leonard Fournette got off to a strong start to his season last week, rushing for 127 yards on 21 carries against the Cowboys. The most impressive part about Fournette’s performance was his 6.6 yards per carry average. The Saints gave up a lot of yards in big chunks to Patterson in the opener, so I fully expect the Bucs to try to establish the run and get Fournette going early. 

Lastly for Tampa, their defense is legit. They’re definitely on par with the Saints in terms of coaching and talent. They will be looking to get after Winston and take advantage of an offensive line that looked pathetic to say the least in week one. And with Kamara likely out, that will put more pressure on the passing game to move the ball down field. 

Kickoff is at noon. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The betting odds have the Buccaneers favored to win by 2.5 points. Both teams are heavily banged up but I will give the New Orleans a slight edge in the health department. I think Brady will have a long day against the Saints pass rush given that his offensive line is down several key starters. It also remains to be seen how Tampa’s receiving corps will look in this game. 

Overall I think the Saints have what it takes to improve to 2-0 on the season and 5-0 against Brady. The game will boil down to how effective the offense will be against a really good Bucs defense. If they come out and play like how they did in the 4th quarter against Atlanta, I have the Saints edging out a close ball game, 20-17. 

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Follow the publisher of this post on Twitter @Chris_Lunkin98 for weekly content and up to the minute updates on your New Orleans Saints. 

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