I’ve found two games from the 2017 season that provide compelling evidence of how our purple can beat the Saints. These games both occurred down the stretch in a tight NFC race, against playoff caliber opponents. So if we find what these games have in common, we can find a path forward for our beloved purple!
New Orleans lost at Los Angeles 20-26 in Week 12
The Rams ran 73 plays, the Saints ran 52
Los Angeles jumped to an early lead. The Rams settled for four field goals and threw an interception late to keep New Orleans in the game. Overall, the Rams produced six scoring drives over 50 yards in length. That kept their defense rested, kept Brees off the field, and made the Saints offense one-dimensional.
QB: Goff (47% success rate) played well, relying on several deep passes. He got sacked four times.
RB: Gurley (41% running, 43% receiving) was hot and cold.
WRs: Neither Kupp (45%) nor Watkins (44%) found consistency, but Josh Reynolds (67%) did.
New Orleans threatened but not consistently. The Saints were great on first down (61%) and poor on third down (23%). They had to abandon the run and Los Angeles proved up to the task in pass defense. Kayvon Webster finished a key goal line stand to prevent New Orleans from making it a one-score game.
QB: Brees (46%) played efficiently but hurried to shorter throws after the Rams hit him early.
RB: Ingram (36%) got completely shut down while Kamara balled out in both phases (60%, 100%)
WRs: Ginn (45%) and Thomas (50%) had volume but not consistency.
New Orleans lost at Atlanta 17-20 in Week 14
The Falcons ran 65 plays, the Saints ran 52
Atlanta moved the ball very well against NO, but endured a terrible spell when 3 consecutive drives ended in interceptions. They scored on four (65.5 yard average) of their six other drives. This would have been a blow out if not for the turnovers. A strong two headed rushing attack led the way.
QB: Ryan (50%) played great outside of his three interceptions
RB: Freeman (67%) and Coleman (67%) both had strong days, getting the tough yards. Low YPC efforts.
WR: Jones (58%) lost his matchup to Lattimore outside of one big play. Sanu (63%) fared much better.
New Orleans beat Atlanta’s defense consistently when they found a rhythm, but they fell out of that rhythm too frequently. The Saints again succeeded on first down (60%) and struggled on third down (30%). The game was there for the taking when Deion Jones plucked a Brees Interceptions in the end zone.
QB: Brees played terrifically, posting 74% completion and 51% success rate.
RB: Ingram (50% rushing, 60% receiving) play efficiently while Kamara was an afterthought.
WR: Thomas (64%) while Ginn only drew two targets.
Look at all the similarities in these two games! Both LA and ATL:
- Put up big edges in play differential.
- Produced long scoring drives.
- Won with up and down QB performances.
- Saw NO limit their primary offensive threat.
- Got good games from secondary receivers.
- Endured a good day from Drew Brees.
- Let one of NO’s skill players have a big day.
- Defensively struggled on 1st downs, but stymied NO on 3rd downs
- Made a huge stop in the red zone.
These two losses are important because I believe Minnesota can replicate them. The formula is clear:
- Implement a ball control game plan.
- Stay ahead of the chains. Keep the run game involved.
- Case doesn’t have to match Brees, just manage the game.
- Expect Lattimore to limit Diggs or Thielen.
- Rely on Kyle Rudolph and other secondary targets.
- Beat Brees not through coverage, but through pressure.
- If an NO playmaker goes off, don’t worry, just focus on limiting the other 3.
- Come to play on 3rd down, no matter what happens on 1st
- In some way shape or form, a clutch defensive play in the red zone will be needed.
Bring. It. Home.