NEW ORLEANS — The Saints come home all smiles at 2-1 and how they did it is where we start out four takeaways from Foxboro.
#4 The 2020 Formula
The Saints won with their 2020 formula. That’s running the ball.
Last year, we called it “Big Boy Football.” Alvin Kamara ran it 24 times for 89 yards. As a team, the Saints rushed 38 times for 142 yards. This was not the formula two years ago.
In 2019, the Saints ran for 130 yards or more just twice all season, but last year, with a QB who had trouble getting the ball downfield, they did it eight times. And this season, they’ve already done it twice in three games.
It’s not a surprise, but the Saints are 12-0 in those 12 games.
Twenty-seven total touches for Kamara is a lot. Sean Payton said he wants to manage that, but it was needed in Foxboro. Kamara said team rushing yards was a battle Sean Payton wanted to win — and the Saints did at 142 to 49.
#3 The Turnover Battle
At number three, the other battle Payton insisted on winning: Turnovers.
Bill Belichick never loses at home when the Patriots win the turnover battle.
The Saints got three turnovers and gave up ZERO. In the last three seasons, the Saints have only been +3 or better in a game seven times. In those seven games, they 7-0.
Even at +1, Sean Payton’s Saints are hard to beat. Since 2019, the Saints have won the turnover battle in a game 17 times. In those games, they’re 16-1.
When turnovers are even, they’re 6-4. And when they give up more turnovers than they get, they’re 5-3.
Since 2019, they’re good no matter what, but great when they win the turnover battle.
#2 The Jameis Question
In three games now, Jameis Winston has committed two turnovers — both in Charlotte.
So that’s just two-thirds of a turnover per game. If he keeps that up, the Saints are going to win a lot of games.
On Sunday, his numbers were excellent, but the eye test tells a different story. A 110 QBR is fantastic, but Jameis took too many chances and threw into coverage several times. The numbers overall are solid, but it felt like Jameis Winston got lucky Sunday. But he also made some excellent throws.
On the first TD drive, he hit Deonte Harris for 12 yards on third-and-10 and the touchdown to Kamara came on a third-and-seven. On the game clinching drive, he hit Harris for 12 on a third-and-seven.
It feels like Winston has a chance to be really good in Sean Payton’s offence, but it also feels like he’s not there yet.
#1 Tenacious D
That’s OK for now, because the Saints defense was exceptional Sunday.
There’s no reason to believe they won’t be among the NFL’s elite defenses all season.
They were good at all three levels, but the biggest reason I think the success can and will continue is the pressure they’re putting on quarterbacks.
Mac Jones was perpetually harassed —two sacks, 11 QB hits, which led to eight passes defensed. Big numbers in a big road win.
Veterans Cam Jordan and Malcolm Jenkins were terrific again. The Saint defense, when mostly health, looks like they’re for real and that is going to keep this team in the playoff hunt.