Monday Night Football @ The Vikings
Coming into this game all the talk was on Adrian Peterson returning to Minnesota after his fantastic ten year spell with the Vikings. He really was the face of the franchise for many years. The Saints started with the ball and fed it straight to AP for a nine-yard gain, a good start for the former Viking but that would be as good as it would get. He only managed 18 yards off six attempts with Coach Payton preferring Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Leaving Peterson a very frustrated figure on the side-line…
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One thing I learnt from the game was to never get too hyped up about preseason. The Saints defence looked incredible in the preseason but it looked all to similar when it counted. The old defence of the past few season with a poor pass rush and open receivers in the secondary had returned. The new O line for the Vikings looked very comfortable allowing Cook and Bradford to take their time and pick their spots to hurt the Saints defence with big explosive plays. That just kills a young defences confidence. It was definitely a game to forget for De’Vante Harris as he was targeted by the very prolific Sam Bradford, Bradford threw for 346 yards with three Touchdowns and a completion rate of 84.4%. One of Bradford’s favoured targets was Stefon Diggs who had Harris’ number all day with seven receptions for 93 yards and three touchdowns on the night. This was all possible because of the quality of the offensive line who only gave up one sack to Cam Jordan. The Saints secondary also have a lot to think about with some very silly penalties giving up major yards. These were all avoidable situations, hitting a defenceless receiver and hitting a receiver out of bounds just cant happen.
The Saints offence didn’t look like the normal Saints offence and it all started upfront. Max Unger coming off an injury from the previous season and having limited snaps in preseason added to the rust. The rookie Ramczyk starting his first ever NFL game out of position at Left Tackle was going to be a big test. The Saints also lost Zack Strief in the 2nd quarter due to a knee injury which doesn’t help the already injury plagued O line. The O line haven’t had many snaps to gel together and against the Vikings top 5 defence they battered the line and made them pay with Brees getting rushed. The running game was also shut down regardless who was back there for the Saints. The Saints did have a good first drive with Brees connecting to Thomas for a few big gains and Coby Fleener took the saints to the end zone but a silly penalty from LG Peat put the New Orleans in a 3rd and long. They had to settle for a field goal. This was very unlike the Saints offence under Payton with five trips into the red zone but only coming away with 1 touchdown. That touchdown came when the game was pretty much over but it was a great take by Coby Fleener who looked much improved from the disappointment of last season.
I couldn’t help but notice how much Brees was missing Willie Snead who is currently suspended. Snead was Brees’ go to guy on 3rd down last year and was also available for a quick pass. This was much needed with the pressure that the Vikings defensive line was putting on Brees. The Saints were 4-11 on third down which is not what Brees and Co are used to. Kicker Will Lutz started the season as he ended last season. I can see him going to the pro bowl this year because he looks a very competent kicker and hopefully will be in New Orleans for many years to come.
What else can I say about the Saints on their opening game?
Yes Minnesota is a very hard place to go to and they look like they have their offence sorted. We all knew how good their defence is with five pro bowlers in the line-up but all the hype was about the new look Saints defence. But boy did they disappoint. This was partly down to good play from the Vikings, maybe this test just came too early for the young defence. I believe it could have been a different game. The Saints failed to capitalise on two potential turnovers which both turned into points for the Vikings. First was the tipped pass where Cam Jordan and AJ Klein ran into each other thus knocking the ball loose for an incomplete pass. Then the ball was stripped from Latavius Murray but the Saints didn’t get to the ball first and it was recovered by the Vikings. I’m not saying that if the Saints got those turnovers they would have won but it might have injected some more confidence into this defence and given the offence something to work with.
Coming away from a 19-29 defeat I believe the only positives I can find from this game were kicker Will Lutz and Coby Fleener who looked like he has worked hard this offseason. Fleener could become the weapon that Sean Payton and the Saints thought he would be when he signed last season.
What Next for the Saints?
Well it’s good news and bad News for the Saints. The good news is they are back at home in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the bad news is they have a very angry Bill Belichick and Tom Brady coming to town trying to make up for their shock home defeat to the Kansas city Chiefs. It will be hard to turnaround the mistakes from this week in time for Sunday and the fact the Patriots have had since Friday to start preparing for this game scares me.
I think the Saints need to keep grinding and keep practicing even though it may be ugly next week. The fans have to remember that this is a very hard start to the year and it’s a long season ahead. I would like to see the offence improve in the red zone next week because field goals won’t win you games against the big teams.
You can find more Saints content on the UKSaints Podcast that you find on iTunes and Podomatic where I discuss all Saints topics with other UK Saints fans.