After I settled into my seat at the Superdome I halfheartedly joked to my nephew that I wouldn’t mind if Drew Brees threw the ball 50 times against that Carolina secondary. Sure enough the Saints would open the game with an empty backfield on a day that saw Brees throwing the ball 49 times.
What a roller coaster ride this day would turn out to be.
But before I dig into some of the game I must salute the WhoDatNation in that dome, you guys and gals were fantastic. It’s was loud all day long and when Kenny Vaccaro got wrongfully flagged for pass interference the raucous crowd came unglued and rightfully so – that call was a huge momentum swing.
With this Saints defense, even being up 21-0 you just knew Carolina would close the gap and make a game of it. But just like some of the previous games they had their moments, it would be nice if they could just put it together for four quarters. You see glimpses of it – the Sterling Moore end zone interception, the QB pressures and hits plus the surprising play of CB BW Webb are at least some things you can build on. But this day belonged to the offense, mainly Drew Brees.
What more can you say about a guy who is 37 years old and throws for 465 yards and 4 touchdowns. It’s almost as if we take it for granted because we’ve seen it so much but the truth is we expect it, scratch that – we need it because if Drew doesn’t play like superman the Saints wouldn’t even have a fighting chance with their struggling defense.
When I look around the the league and see teams like the Jets, Browns, Rams and Bears it makes me appreciate these last few years with Brees. I’m also not blind to the fact that he has his faults too, mainly that he returns to being a human when the Saints play on the road. He’s not horrible but he’s not the elite QB that he is when he’s at the dome.
Since the offense shined last Sunday I think I’ll stick with that theme with this Grind Factor. Lets get started.
The Grind Factor Carolina at New Orleans
The Saints have the ball 4th and 1 from the Panthers 2 yard line with 9:22 left in the 1st quarter
This one is the jet sweep that Sean Payton pulled out of his hat for the Saints 1st score. Many youth football teams across the country run this play, leave it to Payton to pull the trigger on this on a 4th down.
There’s really not much to it – get the defense running one way and use Coby Fleener’s speed going the other way. The key here is for TE Josh hill to take out Thomas Davis the weak side linebacker. Below is a pres-snap look, the Saints show a heavy jumbo look with 3 tight ends (Tim Lelito is eligible) and a full back.
As the play gets underway everybody but Fleener and Hill pull left, the key here is that Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson who is unblocked gets froze for a split second eyeballing Mark Ingram in the backfield and to be honest I don’t think he even seen Fleener until it was too late.
At this point all Fleener has to do is beat FS Tre Boston to the end zone who tries but fails to tackle him at the goal line.
After the play I text my brother who was at the game and coached youth football for years asking – have you ever ran that play before? His answer? too many times. Thankfully Sean Payton guessed right and caught the defensive end sleeping.
The Saints have the ball 3rd and 14 at the 50 yard line with 5:04 left in the 3rd quarter
This is the Coby Fleener long touchdown catch. There are all kinds of wrongs on this play, mainly on the defensive side of the ball. Yes one of the Saints ran the wrong route, depending on who you believe, it was either Willie Snead or Coby Fleener but Carolina blew this 3rd and long. Below is a pre-snap screen shot of the routes ran.
Carolina is going to put six on the line of scrimmage showing a blitz on 3rd and long. But as the ball is snapped both MLB Luke Kuechly & WLB Thomas Davis drop into coverage both taking Willie Snead leaving no one covering TE Coby Fleener. Also FS Tre Boston cheats way too far to his left trying not to let Brandin Cooks get behind him again, this opens up the middle. Below is a screen shot of the play developing.
To be honest if the play had gone to Snead it probably would have drawn a pass interference call because Kuechly was all over him and never turned for the ball. Coby Fleener has caught a lot of flack for his play to start the season but you can see he is starting to “get it” now. This was an outstanding grab – below are a couple of screen shots of the catch.
The Saints have the ball 3rd & 3 from the Panthers 8 yard line with 6:28 to go in the game
I might as well stay with the theme of tight ends, this time Josh Hill comes up huge late in the game. I cannot overstate how hard this touchdown catch was, the strength and concentration to haul in this pass at a crucial time was one of the best receptions I’ve seen by a Saints player in a long time. But first here are the routes ran with the personnel.
As the play gets underway Brees wants to hit Brandon Coleman on the hot route but Luke Kuechly has that snuffed out. Brees feels the pressure and has to step up in the pocket and Hill adjust his route to the back corner of the end zone.
What happens next is pure genius or pure luck because I have no idea how Brees gets this ball off and to put it right on the money for Hill to make the grab.
When Brees steps up in the pocket Kawann Short gets off his block from Senio Kelemente and forces an off balance throw to the deep corner of the end zone. What Short does next should have got him ejected out of the game – he punches Brees in the mouth right after he released the ball. It’s an incredible play by Brees as you can see below how he got hit almost at the same time the ball leaves his hand.
Equally impressive is how Josh Hill hung onto the ball with Carolina CB Zack Sanchez trying to punch the ball out between Hills arms as he secured the catch.
Well that’s a wrap for this edition of the Grind Factor, all I can say is a win is a win is a win and when it all shakes out in the end it doesn’t matter if you blew a team out or nervously waited for a 52 yard field goal from an undrafted kicker who was cut by the Ravens and signed seven days before the 1st game of the season.
We’ll take it however we can.
I always feel you need to be able to steal one on the road or in the case of the Saints last road victory – have one gift wrapped and handed to you. The way to do that is with turnovers and they are going have to get a few this Sunday.
Kansas City has a pretty good defense ranked #6 in total defense but that number is skewered seeing as the bye week isn’t factored in. The Chiefs are giving up around 20 points per game and are giving up 236.6 through the air and 116.6 on the ground.
I think the Saints will be able to move the ball but they can’t stall out like they did against the Giants and Chargers. This defense is going to need all the help they can get because as we have seen – no lead is safe.