NEW ORLEANS — The Saints leave DC all smiles sitting at 3-2 and heading into a bye week.
And some reinforcements should arrive soon!
But let’s start our 4 Takeaways with one of the greatest games you’ll ever see from a punter.
No. 4 Gillikin’s Island
Blake Gillikin dropped three punts inside the Washington Football Team’s five-yard line. The one that rolled at out bounds at the one led directly to the Hail Mary touchdown at the end of the first half. And the one that was downed at the two led directly to the PJ Williams interception.
Sean Payton gave Gillikin a game ball. Rarely does a punter effect a game in a positive way this much.
And give the Saints credit, they kept Gillikin on the practice squad all year last year because they recognized his potential and it paid off.
But he wasn’t the only star…
No. 3 Lattimore Shadow
Marshon Lattimore was excellent. The Saints changed up how they normally use Lattimore Sunday. He traveled from side-to-side to play Washington’s star Terry McLaurin.
McLaurin is among the NFL’s best receivers. Coming into this game he was averaging 9-and-a-half targets a game, six catches and 88 yards. Against Lattimore, Washington till through to him often with 11 targets, but he only caught four for 46 yards.
Taking McLaurin out of the equation clearly rattled Taylor Heinicke. Heinicke was the NFL’s ninth ranked passer before Sunday. He came off the bench in the opener when Ryan Fitzpatrick went down and until Sunday, his worst game of the year was a loss at Buffalo. But with Lattimore shutting down McLaurin, Heinicke’s QBR was a terrible 47.
By contrast, Jameis Winston was at an excellent 108.
No. 2 Payton’s Place
Last week, I said the Giants game wasn’t one of Sean Payton’s best play-calling games. I thought this one was.
Ron Rivera was asked on his coach’s show Saturday what he expects from Sean Payton and he said “I expect something we haven’t planned for.”
Rivera planned for a heavy run attack. In the Saints first four games, they ran it almost exactly 60% of the time, but against Washington Payton flipped the script. The Saints passed it 57% of the time.
Payton excelled in both play calling and in the design. The second touchdown to Marquez Callaway against man-to-man was a double pick play. Callaway started inside, got picks from Kenny Stills and Garrett Griffin, then wound up wide open.
Rivera played a ton of five-man front, so Payton took shots like the long one to Deonte Harris and the Hail Mary, which Washington players admitted they weren’t ready for.
They were playing for the Saints to try to get closer to get a field goal before halftime, but Payton went big.
And late in the game when a quarterback sneak failed on third-and-one, Payton ran it again on fourth-and-one — and it worked!
Sean Payton had the Washington Football Team guessing and off balance all game.
No. 1 Cavalry Coming
The Saints are pretty good now and they will get better.
The offense will add Mike Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith, Terron Armstead and Erik McCoy.
Thomas in particular will change things. He’ll single-handedly take pressure off Alvin Kamara.
And on defense, the pass rush will instantly get better when the Saints add David Onyemata and Marcus Davenport.
Plus, Wil Lutz DEFINITELY helps.
The Saints are 3-2 and getting better on offense with reinforcements coming across the board. I think this is definitely a playoff team that’s going to be fun to watch for the next three months.