It was the first New Orleans Saints shutout since last year’s 9-0 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they blanked the Las Vegas Raiders 24-0. This performance can be the one looked back upon in a few months if the Saints manage to turn things around successfully following their 2-5 start. Offensively, New Orleans operated near-flawlessly, the defense was at its most-stout all season and sans a missed field goal all special teams units operated with reliability. As complete a game seen by the team this season headlines six takeaways from the big win in the Big Easy.
Saints may have found the formula to turn their season around
A lot of the things New Orleans did right during Sunday’s win come down to what most could simply call “good football.” Tackling was much better this week after being an early bugaboo for the team. The offense played a clean game without costly turnovers and penalties. The offensive line paved the way for yet another successful rushing attack and kept quarterback Andy Dalton clean. No big returns were broken and the Raiders never crossed the midfield line until the final drive of the game.
It doesn’t get much better than what New Orleans did on the field today. The good news though, is that they may not need better moving forward. If this is the ceiling for the team, it’s an achievable one that should lead to more wins this season. The Saints will first have to prove they can replicate this performance, but like a struggling shooter in the NBA, sometimes all it takes is watching the ball go through the hoop once to spark the onslaught.
Young defenders showed up big
Starting with cornerbacks Paulson Adebo and Alontae Taylor, the two showed no fear in matching up with one of the NFL’s best receivers in Davante Adams and a formidable Las Vegas passing attack. They played physical, contested plays not only at the catch point but at the line of scrimmage as well. Adebo and Taylor were a revelation for New Orleans who had to go into a premier matchup without starting cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
Linebacker Pete Werner continues to put on a show in his second year. A bright start to his young career. He affected several plays as a pass rush, as a run defender and tipped up a pass in coverage that led to Tyrann Mathieu and the team’s second interception of the season. Werner was all over the field for the defense.
2021 first-round pick Payton Turner had a day. The defensive end picked up two sacks and made some nice plays in other areas as well. He’s been on and off the inactive list this season. With his opportunity on Sunday coming back from injury, he played well and made a handful of impactful plays.
Adebo, Taylor, Werner and Turner are all under the age of 24 years old. That means this Saints defense, if they continue not only play well but develop further could be in good hands for a while.
Alvin Kamara is the Saints swagger
“Swagger” was the word of the week around the Saints training facility. After Kamara addressed the team following their Week 7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals and challenged the team to accept accountability and get their swagger back, a lot of eyes were on him. Well, that and the errant trade rumors circulating social media. But Kamara answered the call not only scoring his first touchdown of the season, but finding the endzone three times.
He ran one in for the first score of the game and then brought in two catch and run touchdowns on his famed choice routes. The routes effectively give the talented running back the option to cut inside or outside depending on where the defender’s leverage is at the top of his route. Give Kamara an option, and he’ll choose touchdown. His play provided the Saints the juice they looked to be lacking thus far this season and ignited the home crowd.
Is home-field advantage back?
The Saints have not had the success many are accustomed to seeing at home lately. They were 4-8 over their last 12 home games heading into Week 8. Sunday, things felt different in the Caesars Superdome. The crowd noise forced Raiders Derek Carr to take at least two timeouts at the line of scrimmage and also contributed to some Vegas offensive penalties. It was one of the harder environments to overcome on Sunday and that is largely charged by the team’s performance and early start on both sides of the ball.
Saints run defense withstood one of this season's tougher challenges
Running back Josh Jacobs has been one of the Raiders’ most successful weapons this season. Coming into the matchup with New Orleans, he was No. 3 in rushing yards across the league. Cameron Jordan, Marcus Davenport and the Saints front seven showed up big allowing just 43 rushing yards to Jacobs. They also held the Raiders to just 2.9 yards per carry with several negative plays forced. It was exactly the performance the defense needed and expects from itself moving forwards.
Andy Dalton proves his head coach right, at least for now
The first game following the widely contested decision to start Dalton at quarterback over incumbent starter Jameis Winston proved to be in head coach Dennis Allen’s favor. Now, the Raiders do not have the strongest defense in the NFL ranking No. 24 in total defense and No. 26 in passing defense, but it’s hard to ignore this performance. The Saints offense continued the production that Allen cited when choosing Dalton to be the starter.
The veteran signal caller threw for 226 yards and a pair of passing touchdowns while completing 73.3% of his passes. Hard to imagine that is not what the team was looking for. The key to whether or not the right decision was actually made will come later when Dalton proves whether or not he can have this performance consistently. Until then, the choice will have its supporters and critics. For Allen and the Saints, as long as the wins keep coming, that will be all the argument they need.
Revenge games are sweet even when you choose not to acknowledge them
Allen is never going to admit it publicly, or at least not until later in his lifetime, but Sunday’s win was a sweet one for him. After going 8-28 as the then-Oakland Raiders head coach, he was relieved of his duties before making his way back to New Orleans. On Sunday, Allen’s Saints shut out the Raiders. Not a bad way to celebrate Halloween Eve.
Kamara, Allen’s best offensive player, spoke on the topic earlier in the week. He expressed his desire to go out there and get a win in convincing fashion with some convincing language. Sunday, Kamara and the Saints made good on that sentiment in convincing fashion.