The goatee came to town with his vaunted Rams defense and subsequently got curb stomped by the man he threw under the bus, Sean Payton. I know it’s only one game in the grand scheme of things but make no mistake this game has been circled on Payton’s calendar since the schedule came out way back in April.

It was good to have the old Sean Payton back – circa 2011. The coach who when he had a team down he didn’t just kick them, he doused them with gasoline, threw the match and wouldn’t flinch one bit.

He’s going to need that unapologetic aggressiveness down the stretch.

It also doesn’t hurt that Drew Brees is red hot right now and to be honest with you I think he is absolutely playing better than any other quarterback in the NFL including Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, Dak Prescott, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Phillip Rivers Kirk Cousins and others.

One can argue Brees is playing his best football of his career right now, think about it, a few weeks back Denver who has the NFL’s best pass defense at 194 yards per game rolls into town and Brees hangs 303 yards and 3 TD’s on them. The Rams and their #6 ranked pass defense? Brees dropped 310 yards and 4 TD’s.

Here is Brees completion percentage his last six games (77.8) (79.5) (72.4) (71.8) (77.1) (77.1)

Impressive.

I’m soaking every bit of this up because father time is undefeated and we only have a few more short years witnessing one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. Before every home game my eyes always drift over to him warming up going through his progressions thinking what are you going to do today? He doesn’t disappoint.

Speaking of not disappointing, this 2016 Saints squad hasn’t disappointed me. This has been the most entertaining season in the last five years. Sure the record isn’t what we all want at this point but besides the loss to Atlanta the Saints were in every game until the end. If it wasn’t for a few bone head mistakes here and there we would be talking about playoff seeding instead of winning out to get in the dance.

What gives me hope for this year and beyond is that this defense is steadily improving. You can see the difference in this defense with a healthy Dannell Ellerbe, Sheldon Rankins and Delvin Breaux.

So with that being said lets get this grind factor started on defense and then move on to the offensive onslaught. We are going to start with the Rankins sack/strip because I thought it really shifted the momentum because up to that point it was a tied game and the Rams offense was feeling real good about what they had accomplished.

The Rams have the ball 1st & 10 at their 27 yard line with 9:32 left in the second quarter

Even though Sheldon Rankins made a great play, Jared Goff also had a hand in this turnover. Delvin Breaux and Jairus Byrd have bracket coverage on Rams wide out Kenny Britt. Instead of reading this pre-snap he stares him down and by the time he looks for his second read it was too late. The correct read would have been to the TE Lance Kendricks who had Ellerbe in single coverage and was open as seen below.

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As the play gets underway (Saints are playing a 4-2-5) they send Kenny Vaccaro on a blitz and Cam Jordan is going to stunt to the A gap. Rams guard Cody Wichmann is going to help Tackle Rob Havenstein with a double team chip on Sheldon Rankins before peeling off to help seal the middle.

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Rankins then destroys Havenstein throwing him backwards with a clear path to Goff. The running back is taken out of the picture by picking up the Vaccaro blitz. Also notice David Onyemata beating his man, if Rankins doesn’t get to Goff, Onyemata would have.

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This is the end result – a sack/strip/fumble recovery that clearly put the Saints in control for the rest of the game. Something that the Saints have lacked on past teams was interior pressure, these two young guns and Nick Fairley will solidify this unit for years to come and if that doesn’t get you excited about the future I don’t know what will.

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The Saints have the ball 1st & 10 from the Rams 42 yard line with 3:44 left to go in the 2nd quarter

Up next is the 35 yard screen pass to TE Josh Hill. I know I could have picked any Michael Thomas highlight or the Willie Snead touchdown pass but I chose this play because it is rarely if ever used in this offense.

This is a perfect play call and a perfect example of Payton exploiting the Goatee’s defense with some sneaky misdirection. One thing I noticed over the years with screens is that Payton primarily would use his guards with maybe a center to get out front. That’s changed the last couple of years, any one of the five offensive linemen may peel off of their blocks and head down field, this time it’s tackle Zach Strief and guard Andrus Peat. Below is a pre-snap screen shot with personnel and routes ran. (notice John Phillips running the clear out underneath route)

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The key here is the fake toss to Tim Hightower with guard Jahri Evans pulling to his left. What this does is completely fool Rams MLB Alec Ogletree which takes him out of the play as he pursues the fake toss sweep.

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As you can see in the two screen shots below the entire right side of the field is open save for one Rams defender and he has the 6’8″ 320 pound Zach Strief barreling right at him. Also notice DB EJ Gaines – he is the furthest player from Hill, he would make the tackle.

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The start of the 3rd quarter the Saints have the ball 1st and 10 at their 25 yard line

This is the Mark Ingram 61 yard run at the start of the 2nd half. I choose this play not only because Ingram has been on a tear but also because his blocking has been outstanding. This a good example of putting a hat on a hat and winning the battle against your man.

The Saints get creative with the unbalanced line with Josh Hill manning Zach Strief’s right tackle spot and swinging Strief outside of Terron Armstead, below is a good look at the line.

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In this screen shot below you can see the two linebackers (Cory Littleton & Alec Ogletree) plus safety Mark Barron hitting their gaps as Ingram is handed the ball. Notice Andrus Peat peeling off his chip helping Armstead to close the A gap.

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The key here is fullback John Kuhn taking out SS Barron and Strief taking out DE Robert Quinn  which opens a huge hole on the left side of the line.

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After that it was off to the races for Ingram, I just wished he would have scored but I can’t complain it was perfect execution.

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Well that’s a wrap for this week and as much fun as this film review was to do I’m really looking forward to what Payton, Brees and Dennis Allen have up their sleeves for a crucial showdown with a much improved Detroit Lions club.

This past Sunday was a game the Saints should have won and they did, this next Sunday the competition level goes way up against a Lions club that’s won six out of their last seven. That’s impressive but if you look at is closer the Lions have been squeaking by teams – all of their games have been decided by seven points or less.

It would be nice for the Saints to jump out to a huge lead to see if the Lions will fold like the Rams did but I don’t see it – this one will come down to the end with whoever makes the least amount of mistakes walking away the winner.

Keep bringing the pressure, create turnovers and limit the penalties and the Saints win this one.

Prediction: Saints 38 Lions 34