The New Orleans Saints did it. It was a hard fought game, but they were able to win a grind-it-out game over the hated San Francisco 49ers. The game wasn’t perfect, but games against the 49ers don’t end up being that. The defense played superbly once again, but also this game showed a nice maturation of Sean Payton and Drew Brees.
For one, Sean Payton actually ran the ball and stayed patient. They managed 23 rushing attempts with most of them coming in the beginning of the game. They also ran it very effectively, averaging 4 yards per carry as a team with both Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas averaging more than 4 yards per carry. More importantly, they were able to pick up six first downs on the ground including a few 3rd and shorts. This allowed the Saints to possess the ball for nine more minutes than the 49ers.
Brees was able to avoid the crucial mistake even though his one interception to Ahmad Brooks was a momentary lapse in judgment. However, Brees took what the defense gave him and checked it down when needed as evidenced by more than a third of his completions going to running backs. For the most part, Payton was able to simplify the game plan enough to avoid mistakes.
On the flip side, the defense stepped up huge again. The knock on this defense was their inability to stop the run. The 49ers, a bonafide downhill running team, were held to 81 yards and only 3.7 yards per carry. Even more impressive was the job they did on Frank Gore, who was held to a mere 48 yards. Furthermore, if one were to look deeper into the numbers, one would see that removing the long run of 24 yards, the Saints held Gore to 2 yards a carry, which is stifling.
The Saints were not perfect; they had 3 careless turnovers, including one that erased a pick six. However, this is a game the Saints lose and have lost, but now they now have won 2 out of 3 games against what are physical teams (wins against the Chicago Bears and 49ers, but a loss to the New York Jets).
The Saints will have more of the same going forward with the Seattle Seahawks and the Carolina Panthers twice on the horizon. But first, the Saints don’t want to overlook the pesky Atlanta Falcons on a short week this Thursday.
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