Cleat Geeks

Saints shutout The Dolphins 20-0 In London

After an 0-2 start to the 2017-2018 NFL season, the New Orleans Saints are now making themselves a more relevant team by winning two in a row. With their 34-13 win over the Carolina Panthers, the Saints immediately took their team to London as they prepared for their London site match-up against the Miami Dolphins. With a full week long of preparations, the New Orleans Saints (2-2) took their time to account for a well convincing victory over the Miami Dolphins (1-2) with a 20-0 shutout in Webley Stadium.

 

Saints’ Defense Were The Stars Of The Game

For Miami’s 1st drive, the Dolphins had 12 plays of 81 yards that took 8 minutes and 32 seconds off the clock. The drive, however, resulted in Miami QB Jay Cutler throwing an interception to Saints CB Ken Crawley in the end zone, thus resulting in a wasted drive. Miami accounted for 186 total yards on offense but after that 1st drive, the Dolphins only accounted for 105 yards. Miami was not efficient on 3rd downs by only moving the chains once on 3rd down out of the eight total times. Of the 9 total drives for Miami, the Dolphins punted 6 times, threw an interception, encountered a turnover on downs, and their last drive ended from the game clock hitting 0.

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The Saints defense played a complete game from their Defensive Line and Linebackers pressuring Cutler and making great tackles in the run game to the Defensive Backs doing their jobs defending the pass. New Orleans defense accounted for 5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 3 pass deflections, and 5 Quarterback hits. Star Defensive End Cameron Jordan accounted for 4 total tackles, 4 solo tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, and 2 QB hits. Jordan along with other members of the Defensive Line set the tone and aggression for the Saints against this Miami Offense that still struggling to create momentum so far this season.

Each personnel of the Saints defense has marginally improved from their performances in the first two games of the season against Minnesota and New England. In those two losses, New Orleans has given up an average of 32.5 points per game. Meanwhile, in the previous two games, the Saints have given up 13 to the talented Carolina Panthers and 0 points to Miami (an average of 6.5 points the last two games). One of the main weaknesses of the defense was defending the pass. There has also been a big improvement in each of the starting Defensive Backs in Crawley, S Kenny Vaccaro, and S Marcus Williams. That was evident as they held Jay Cutler to 164 passing yards on 20 completions. A big plus was rookie CB Marshon Lattimore back in the lineup after missing last week against Carolina with a concussion. Lattimore has been a tremendous Corner for the Saints so far this season as he is not only consistent in his coverages but has accounted for high grades. Pro Football Focus has rated him 7th of all Corners in the league in overall coverage grades (87.2).

 

Offense Excels But Trouble Brewing For New Orleans

While scoring 20 points is still successful, it is a little lower in terms of expectations and goal setting for New Orleans. The Saints are used to a high-potent offense because of their heavy passing game and balanced offensive strategy. There is an imbalance offensive flow right now because of the lack of a dominant run game. Against the Miami Dolphins, the Saints continued to struggle to account for a balanced attack. Through New Orleans’ 347 total yards accounted against Miami, only 86 yards came from the ground. For a while, it was the indecisiveness of the running attack of using a three Running Back system with Mark Ingram, rookie Alvin Kamara, and Adrian Peterson. Though the Saints relied less on Peterson, the leading back was Ingram, who accounted for 14 carries for 45 yards. Kamara had 5 carries for 25 yards and Peterson only accounted for 4 rushing yards.

Not all can be blamed on the Running Backs and the coaches, the Saints Offensive Line has had problems with creating running room and blocking for the rushers. Part of it comes from the inefficient of blockers like LG Andrus Peat, who has not lived up to the hype of their 2015 1st round NFL Draft pick. Another form of inconsistency comes from the injury to their captain and star blocker in OT Zach Strief. The Right Tackle missed the two games with a knee injury and was back for the match-up against Miami. Unfortunately for the Saints, Strief suffered another injury to his knee and has been placed on IR as he will miss 8 weeks. OT Terron Armstead is expected to start after still recovering from his shoulder surgery in the off-season. Whoever will block for New Orleans will need to step up their play if they want a more potent offense.

Not all of the offensive production against the Miami Dolphins was bad as Quarterback Drew Brees had another good game with 268 passing yards from 29 completions (out of 41 attempts) for 2 touchdowns. RB Alvin Kamara was the team’s reception leader with 10 catches for 71 yards and a touchdown as he is becoming a versatile offensive threat. Kamara was a good option for Brees against Miami because of their group of efficient Defensive Backs. WR Michael Thomas accounted for 8 receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown. Even with WR Willie Snead back from suspension, he was not active for the match-up against Miami because of a hamstring injury.

 

The Saints To Rest Up More Properly With Upcoming Bye Week

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New Orleans will be on a bye week this upcoming Sunday, which comes at an interesting time for their defense. On one hand, an extra bye week will help players recover from their injuries more as they prepare for the next game the week after. On the other hand, it does put their consistency on hold and possibly ruin that momentum of their defense improving through gameplay. The Saints are currently ranked 12th in the league in points allowed per game (19.5 points) which is better than the 31st scoring defense they had a few weeks ago.

If anything, the Saints know this and will stress upon continuing to fix their defensive issues as well as find answers to an offense that is usually at the top of the NFL in scoring. The Saints are currently 15th in the league in points per game (23.3 points). Head Coach Sean Payton and the Saints will need to find those answers during a long break as they will prepare for the Detroit Lions (3-1), who ranks 10th in the league in points per game (24.8 points) and tied for 4th in points allowed per game (17.5 points).

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