ATLANTA — Call it robbery in Atlanta. The Saints stole one. It's all smiles in New Orleans tonight, but for three quarters it looked grim.
Thanks to some Jameis magic, Winston was eating Ws in the fourth quarter.
Dennis Allen is 1-0, but said it perfectly afterward.
"Enjoy the win, but have tough skin, because we're not going to win a lot of games playing like we did today," Allen said.
So let's start our four takeaways with the downside.
Reason 4: The Read Option Misery
Cordarelle Patterson ran hard Sunday. He was terrific with 22 carries for 120 yards but in the read-option offense, it's not the running back, it's the quarterback, and Marcus Mariota ran it effectively.
The Falcons had 201 rushing yards as a team.
In the last three seasons, which is 34 regular reasons games, the Saints have given up 200 rushing yards three times, once in 2020 to Philadelphia, once in 2021 to Philadelphia, and Sunday to Atlanta.
In all three cases, the Saints face this college style of read-option offense.
What's interesting is Marcus Mariota didn't hurt the Saints passing, his quarterback rating was a mediocre 79.7, but for whatever reason, the read-option running game gives the Saints defense fits. Luckily, they get traditional offenses for at least the next month.
Reason 3: The Protection Problem
The other problem was protection. Jameis Winston was sacked four times and was generally harassed for three quarters. Because the read-option had the Saints defense on their heels, they had zero sacks. The Falcons recorded eight quarterback hits, the Saints had one.
Rarely is this the team that won the game. The pass rush and the protection have to be better.
Reason 2: Three Wideouts
Michael Thomas and the wideouts shined. In just the fourth quarter, Thomas Landry and Olave combined for ten catches.
On Thomas's first touchdown, Jameis Winston threw a hundred-mile-an-hour fastball, and Tomas snatched it out of the air. In that final drive, when the Saints desperately needed a big play. Jarvis Landry elevated to make one.
In one quarter, the Saints three receivers showed what's possible.
Reason 1: 4th Quarter Rippage
In that fourth quarter, Jameis Winston let it rip like we had not seen before. The first three quarters were ugly. The offensive line had no rhythm, neither did the playcalling, and neither did Winston through three quarters.
He was 10-19 for just 56 yards passing and a poor quarterback rating of 58.4.
But in the fourth, forced to throw every down, Jameis and Pete Carmichael found a rhythm, Winston's decision-making was perfect...and the passes were on target.
In one quarter, Jameis was 13-15 for 213 yards and two scores and a perfect quarterback rating. Add it all up and the rating is 111 for the game.
Aaron Rodgers led the NFL in quarterback rating last year, with a 111.9 rating, this would be the second best in the NFL if Winston kept it up all season, and that's the question.
Clearly, Winston and Peter Carmichael are still figuring things out together, and if the offensive line doesn't play better...real success isn't likely.
But here's one final number...the Saints are now 6-2 with Jameis Winston as their starting quarterback and it feels like we're just starting to get a glimpse of what this version of the Saints offense can be, and that's my number one takeaway from the wild comeback win in Atlanta.