The Saints Week 2 win on Monday Night Football felt all too familiar. With a stifling secondary, a frustrating lack of offensive rhythm, and some clutch Carr in the game’s final moments, it was much of the same from last week’s battle with the Titans. But while it wasn’t pretty, the Saints again pulled through in the fourth quarter, moving to 2-0 for the first time since 2013. Here are three key takeaways from the 20-17 primetime win.
Three Key Takeaways From Saints Week 2 Win
Offensive Red Zone Woes Continue
Derek Carr arrived in New Orleans with a history of struggling in the red zone. Through his first two games, unfortunately, he has yet to do much to change that narrative. The Saints once again had to settle for first-half field goals after twice reaching inside the ten-yard line.
Carr shouldn’t shoulder all of the blame here, however. Protection issues carried forward from last week’s game and prevented the offense from finding its rhythm, But the two third-down misses the Saints had before settling for field goals were simply poor execution.
The Saints finally broke through in the third quarter of their Week 2 win with a sustained drive that ended in six. They began to lean heavily on the run and eventually capitalized with a short touchdown. It was the type of drive they absolutely need to be seeing more of. Featuring a bomb to Olave mixed in with a punishing ground attack, it was a rare bright moment for an otherwise dull day offensively.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 19, 2023
While results so far have been disappointing, there are some signs of hope on the horizon. The return of Alvin Kamara and Kendre Miller should add some much-needed juice to the running back room. Jamaal Williams had been forced to carry the load leading into this game, and didn’t even last past the first half. He’s proven to be an excellent short-yardage back in the past but doesn’t have nearly the receiving prowess that Kamara brings. A healthy group here would be a big boost, in addition to Carr hopefully slowly finding his groove. Ultimately, red zone execution needs to be a point of emphasis moving forward. Continuously settling for three will cost this team games if this doesn’t improve quickly.
Granderson, DL Continue Applying Pressure
If there was any reason to be concerned in the defense heading into 2023, it was the defensive line. With Cameron Jordan another year closer to the end, Payton Turner’s struggles, and offseason departures, the unit was a massive question mark. And while it’s certainly still early to make any declarations, there has to be some relief as to how this group has performed through two weeks. Four sacks won’t light up the stat sheet, but they managed consistent pressure and generally made life difficult for Bryce Young in the Saints Week 2 win.
Highlighted by a crucial strip-sack from Carl Granderson, the line again made its presence felt throughout. Granderson’s moment was another instance of him shining this year. If he can string together these flashes into consistent play, he may be headed for a big-time season. In a contract year, he appears to setting himself up for a nice payday this offseason. The Saints were in similar circumstances following Trey Hendrickson’s elite 2020 season. They decided not to pay him and made the ill-fated decision of rolling with Marcus Davenport. There’s a long season left, but seeing how Granderson’s progresses could force the front office into another tough decision.
CARL GRANDERSON WITH THE STRIP SACK ON BRYCE YOUNG
So many turnovers in these games right now.
— JPAFootball (@jasrifootball) September 19, 2023
Besides Granderson, many others on the line also had their moments. Cam Jordan continued his nice start to the year and hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down. Bryan Bresee seems more comfortable with each passing week and nearly had a game-changing sack-fumble if not for a penalty in the secondary. Being able to generate consistent pressure with three or four would be a huge positive surprise for this defense. If the line can continue to build, the potential of this defense grows that much more.
With the signings of Jamaal Williams and Foster Moreau, Taysom Hill appeared potentially to be an odd man out offensively. With Williams slated to handle short-yardage and goal-line situations, much of Hill’s utility as a runner looked to be redundant. And with Moreau and Jimmy Graham in the tight end room, it was hard to envision Hill contributing anything significantly out of his “tight-end” position.
Monday was a strong reminder of just how valuable Hill still is to this offense. After Williams left with an injury, Hill stepped into a de-facto RB2 role behind Tony Jones. He picked up 75 yards on just nine carries, including his final one which sealed the Saints Week 2 win. The Saints like their matchup advantage on Hill running QB-power, and it was no surprise why. He picked up chunk play after chunk play on his runs and probably should have been used even more. Two drives that ended in punts were the result of incomplete passes on third-and-short, where Hill could certainly have helped.
The Hill package still comes with its caveats, of course. There still needs to exist a threat of a pass when Hill plays to avoid becoming too predictable. The Saints also don’t want to unnecessarily pull Carr and the rest of the offense out of a rhythm. But sometimes, it simply comes down to Hill’s physicality outmatching the defenses’. Whether it be a potential aid to red-zone issues, or a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ call for breaking the offense out of a funk, it’s clear that Hill still can make a significant contribution to this offense.
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Main Photo: Stephen Lew – USA Today Sports