Monday, November 11, 2013
Upon Further Review: Saints Week 10
By Mike Triplett
NEW ORLEANS -- A review of four hot issues from the New Orleans Saints' 49-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome:
Super Bowl bound? The Saints were historically good Sunday. They set an NFL record with 40 first downs. They rolled up 625 yards -- the most by any NFL team in regulation in the regular season since 1982. Their defense held Dallas quarterback Tony Romo to 128 yards on 10 completions. The Cowboys were 0-of-9 on third down. So book your Super Bowl tickets, right?
Not quite yet. All this performance did was validate that the Saints (7-2) have as high a ceiling as any team in the NFL. But they need to prove they can do it consistently -- and they'll get that chance under some much more difficult circumstances over the next six weeks. If they look anywhere near this good against a physical 49ers team at home next week, then at Atlanta on a Thursday night, then at Seattle on a Monday night, then you can start looking into February flights to New York.
Calming some fears: I'm guessing my Twitter feed won't be so consumed by questions about drafting an all-new offensive line after this game. Of course, this was just one game against a pretty toothless Dallas defense. But it was still a tremendous performance by a unit that has taken some heat for its inconsistent play. The Saints ran the ball 36 times for 244 yards (not counting kneel-downs). And quarterback Drew Brees was sacked only once while completing 34 of 41 passes for 392 yards and four touchdowns. The entire Saints line was awarded a game ball afterward.
Also, receiver Marques Colston caught seven passes for 107 yards and a touchdown, and running back Darren Sproles gained 88 yards with two touchdowns -- alleviating some fantasy football fears. Tight end Jimmy Graham was quieter, with five catches for 59 yards while coming on and off the field to keep managing his foot and elbow injuries. It was a reminder that he will still be somewhat limited going forward, but he can be productive in limited opportunities.
Ingram's monster day: In a much more surprising offensive breakout, Mark Ingram ran for 145 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries (130 in the second half). Obviously we can't expect this type of production on a regular basis. But now that Ingram is healthy and the offensive line has finally found a run-blocking rhythm, he could certainly be an effective part of the rotation behind Pierre Thomas and Sproles the rest of the way. I've always insisted that the key to all the running backs' success is the line. And they have been getting their act together in recent weeks.
Lewis a Pro Bowler? Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis has been outstanding all season, helping to silence some of the league's top receivers. But after delivering once again on the Sunday night stage against Dallas' Dez Bryant, he may start to garner some well-deserved Pro Bowl attention. Lewis was matched up against Bryant throughout the night -- sometimes with help from double teams, but not always. Lewis allowed just one completion to Bryant for 44 yards late in the third quarter, and Bryant was targeted only twice.