NEW ORLEANS — The fourth quarter was drama-free Sunday as the Saints rolled over the Arizona Cardinals on both sides of the field.
My four takeaways start with…
4. The Murray Motor
With Alvin Kamara out, the Saints have ridden Latavius Murray in an unbelievable way.
Here are his stats the last two weeks: Last week, 27 rushes and five catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns; This week, 21 rushes and nine catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns.
That's 30 touches, two weeks in a row. Do you know.. How many times any player in the NFL has gotten the ball 30 times in a game. It’s nine this season. And only Leonard Fournette and Murray have done it more than once.
Murray has now done it two games in a row. His production the last two weeks is incredible.
3. Elite OTs
Going hand-in-hand with Murray is number three. The offensive line was terrific, but what really stands out, and stood out Sunday, is that the Saints have an elite pair of tackles.
Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead have been exceptional all season. They weren't perfect. Armstead picked up a holding call at the end of the half that hurt. But in a game when it was critical to protect Drew Brees, the Saints gave up zero sacks.
Brees understands the value of this pair.
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2. Defensive Progress
The defensive progress has been remarkable. Once again, there were a ton of defensive heroes Sunday: David Onyemata for that 4th down stop, Demario Davis, Eli Apple, Cam Jordan -- all had excellent games.
And the numbers back up the overall progress. From 2014-2016, in those back-to-back 7-9 seasons, the Saints were 31st, 31st, and 27th in the NFL for total defense, respectively. As they turned things around in 2017, the defense jumped to 17th in the league. They moved up to 14th last season.
Do you know where the Saints rank in total defense now? In yards allowed per game, they’re 6th and rising.
Right now, they’ve given up an average 313 yards a game this season. But in the last three matchups, they averaged just 238 yard given a game.
That’s 1st in the league.
1. Brees is Back
You saw this one coming. Drew Brees' return was an unqualified success.
His quarterback rating over the course of his hall of fame career is 97.7. His three best seasons for quarterback rating were 2009, 2011 and last year, his best ever, at 115.7.
You know what his quarterback rating was against the Cardinals? 116.4.
40-year-old Brees, who hadn't played in six weeks and was wearing an external plastic splint on the thumb of his throwing hand, threw for 373 yards, three touchdowns and an exceptional quarterback rating, all on a special Sunday in the middle of a special season.
That has to be the number one takeaway from the saints crushing the Cardinals.
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