Many fans were ready to write off the New Orleans Saints’ season, and Dennis Allen and Andy Dalton right along with it. Fans worked hard this week to get #FireDennisAllen trending on Twitter.
This may have only been for one week and one game, but give credit to New Orleans for finding a way to manage missing 11 starters and come up with a win. The heavily criticized Allen and Dalton deserve a lot of credit after this game, as superior coaching and quarterback play were both on full display.
For at least one week, they proved their detractors wrong. Maybe the criticism will ease until the next game.
The big story in this game is how the Saints managed just two penalties and never turned the ball over. To quote the color analyst Jonathan Vilma in this game “that will travel regardless of the opponent”. So many times this season the Saints lost in self inflicted ways, it was impressive to put such a clean performance together.
Most of all, the Saints showed good balance involving Kamara in the passing game and Taysom Hill in the running game. Both of those factors were critical in keeping the offense moving the football. The Saints spread the football around completing passes to nine different receivers to show a varied approach.
Forced to start Landon Young, Calvin Throckmorton and Josh Andrews up front, the Saints held up nicely thanks to quick and decisive passing. The Rams did manage to sack the Saints four times, but otherwise the offense was effective attacking the Rams’ secondary. Hill ran the ball nine times, threw three times and caught one pass. His involvement needs to be at that volume consistently moving forward. Kamara added 12 carries and four receptions.
That leads us to Dalton. He played by far his best game of the season. You can nit pick a couple of bad sacks he took, or his ball placement on a handful of throws… but again, considering what he was working with up front he showed terrific execution and decisiveness.
Many were ready to go back to Jameis Wiston, myself included, but he rewarded the Saints’ belief in him going 21 of 25 for 260 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers. That’s good for a QB rating of 149.6 (perfect is 158.3). At the very least he’s earned himself another start at San Francisco next weekend.
Defensively the Saints added four sacks without their top three edge rushers Marcus Davenport, Cam Jordan or Payton Turner (injured mid game). Quietly, since Week 3, they lead the NFL in sacks. They did a good job managing absences and knocking Matt Stafford out of the game clearly had a major impact on the outcome.
5 Stars of the Game:
Andy Dalton – clearly his stats speak for themselves in this game. He was on fire.
Chris Olave – 5 catches for 102 yards and a touchdown keep him firmly entrenched in the rookie of the year conversation.
Jarvis Landry – He scored the first touchdown by an LSU player for the Saints in 10 years, since Devery Henderson last did it in 2012.
Kaden Elliss – He led the team in tackles with 11 and sacks with 1.5. That’s two weeks in a row he has filled in at a very high level for Pete Werner. The Saints haven’t missed a beat a linebacker because of how he has played.
Blake Gillikin – He has struggled this season but his 47.8 average on 5 punts with three pinning the Rams inside the 20 was crucial to field position.
Andrew Juge is the co-host of “The Saints Happy Hour Podcast.” He can be followed on Twitter @AndrewJuge