The story of the New Orleans Saints Week 1 game will change depending on who you asked. They won after a stellar fourth quarter, but really struggled for the first three phases against a bad Atlanta Falcons team. The offensive line looked bad, the receivers looked great, the play calling was iffy, and the defense was clutch. There was a lot of good and a lot of bad. Overall, it was a great learning experience for the new leadership in New Orleans.
Here’s what went wrong and went right for the Saints as they start the season 1-0 in Atlanta:
What went right?
AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
Realistically nothing was going well for the Saints for the first three quarters, but when the team brought a more urgent tempo they ended up looking more effective offense. The Saints have a lot to learn from what they did well in the fourth quarter.
Jameis Winston looked as solid as could be in the fourth quarter, throwing only one incompletion that wasn’t a spike for the final 15 minutes. His decision making was solid and we saw what this offense was able to do with a strong armed quarterback. He was elusive and looked very agile against the pass rush on a day that the offensive line mostly let him down.
Taysom Hill being back in his original role as a gadget player showed that he never should have left it. He led the team in rushing with 81 yards and a touchdown run from just four carries. It’ll be interesting to see when they decide to throw it with him when he lines up at quarterback, because they will need teams to get guessing for it to keep working. He even almost as a blocked punt at the end, but was held very egregiously.
The debut of the hometown legends lived up to the hype, as both Jarvis Landry and Tyrann Mathieu had solid days. Landry was key in the comeback win. His 40-yard reception at the end of the game against two defensive backs made it possible for the Saints to get into field goal range shortly after.
And the rookie receiver Chris Olave had a solid NFL debut, three catches for 41 yards. He was missed wide open for a touchdown earlier in the game by Winston.
Pete Werner was another highlight of the defense, finishing with 13 tackles (12 solo) and a huge tackle for a loss, plus a clutch forced fumble.
What went wrong?
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While there is a lot to be excited about from the end of the game, the struggles of the first three quarters cannot be ignored.
The offensive line was getting ran through like turnstiles and the play calling didn’t adjust for it until the end of the game. Jameis Winston had no time to get off the longer developing plays, and even when he was given time he held on to the ball for too long.
It’s clear that Winston and Thomas have some work to do on their chemistry, though the end of the game certainly helped. They were out of sync for a lot of the game, and it makes sense as the two have easily gotten the least work together of anyone on the team.
Cesar Ruiz continues to struggle often in year three. It’s continuing to look like a position that will have to be addressed in the off-season, if not sooner. The Michigan product continues to miss assignments or just flat out get beat. It’s tiring to have to beat the same drum, but he just has to get better.
Wil Lutz missed a field goal earlier in the game, that looked like it was going to bite the Saints in the butt before he hit the game winner. His confidence was raised by the end of the game, but he just has to show consistency in his return to play.
Paulson Adebo looked like the biggest absence of the team, as Roby had a rough showing against not stellar talent. Having Adebo available gives another surefire talent on the boundary and allows Roby to kick inside where he is better suited at this point of his career
What's the bottom line?
AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
The Saints came away with a victory, which is all you can ask for the NFL. It’s not like college football where you have to looked good while doing it. A number added to the win column is the most important thing. The start is not what anyone wanted to see, but they showed a ton of resilience and ability to adapt to the situation.
This was the first real game in Dennis Allen’s tenure and Pete Carmichael’s first time fully in charge of the offense. Both have three quarters of footage to look at and learn from negatives, and they have another quarter of footage to see what went well.
If the Saints can continue to capture that feeling of the fourth quarter again, the team can be special. When the offense is clicking it’s a thing of beauty.
However, three quarters of struggle against a team of the talent level that Atlanta is supposed to be at is not okay. In an effort to not overreact to week one, walking away with a win is enough. Let’s see how they respond to next week.
Also, the real bottom line, beating the Atlanta Falcons always feels good.