Saints don’t win without lights-out defense in second half. Demario Davis was all over the field in the final two quarters, causing pressure (three total QB pressures), stuffing the run with emphasis and setting the tone for the Saints in less-than-ideal conditions. He was the catalyst to an excellent call of a game by defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, who mixed up coverages to keep Geno Smith off-balance, ensured Seattle wouldn’t be able to get much going on the ground, and capped the game with a perfectly timed safety blitz on second down, resulting in a Malcolm Jenkins sack. Davis cleaned up the rest on the ensuing down, sacking Smith to set up a fourth-and-28 that Davis nearly finished with an interception. New Orleans finished with five sacks as a team, limited Seattle to 3 of 12 on third down and kept the Seahawks under 225 yards of total offense. It was far from a pretty game Monday night, but the difference between a good and bad season often comes down to being able to grind out wins like these. Thanks to Allen’s defense, the Saints did exactly that in Seattle.
Saints lack go-to pass catcher, so Alvin Kamara will have to do. Kamara saw a Derrick Henry-level workload Monday night, rushing 20 times for 51 yards and catching 10 of his 11 targets for 128 yards and the Saints’ only touchdown of the night. New Orleans capitalized on Kamara’s dynamic ability by deploying him on choice routes that allowed Kamara to find open areas no matter the defense, and frankly, it’s surprising the Saints didn’t go to him even more. Save for a nice sideline grab by Marquez Callaway late in the fourth, Kamara was the only viable option through the air. As Jameis Winston said afterward, his best course of action was “just taking what the defense gave me.” It’s clear the Saints don’t have a ton of offensive punch at this point — especially when the precipitation decides to become a bully — but they have Kamara. It was enough to win Monday night.What is this Seahawks offense? It became very clear the Saints were going to focus on stopping the run first and set aside their worries about Smith’s potential through the air as a secondary concern. Seattle repeatedly plowed Alex Collins into a wall of defenders and essentially refused to do anything but define insanity, receiving similar results on most of their rushing attempts. Even on run-pass options that appeared to favor the pass before the snap, the Seahawks didn’t give it a thought, instead electing to continue slamming backs into the teeth of New Orleans’ defense. The worst example of all of this came after the Seahawks forced a turnover and gave their offense a short field, then ran it on first and second down, and failed to complete a pass on third down, gaining exactly zero yards on three plays before settling for Jason Myers’ lone made field goal from 50 yards out. And when it came time to throw the ball to have a chance to tie or win, center Kyle Fuller was repeatedly mauled by a variety of Saints defenders, including Davis, giving Smith little time to operate. It wasn’t the best showing for offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, and it requires us to wonder if there wasn’t something else going on — an injury, perhaps — with Smith. After DK Metcalf won a one-on-one against Marshon Lattimore for an 84-yard touchdown, he caught just one more pass on the night. Tyler Lockett caught just two passes for 12 yards. This team needs Russell Wilson now more than ever.
Pay attention to Jordyn Brooks before his hype train leaves you behind. Brooks has quietly become a key defender for Seattle’s defense, and while the unit continues to struggle with stopping much of anything, Brooks is quickly proving his worth. He was there to leap up to break up a pass in an important third-and-goal situation in the first half, and appeared again to recover a fumble forced by Ugo Amadi. It doesn’t quite show up in the stats — Brooks finished with four tackles — but the tape doesn’t lie. He was even trusted to run downfield with Kamara in a one-on-one situation late, forcing Winston to look elsewhere. The Seahawks aren’t an exciting team to watch without Wilson, but it’s good fun keeping an eye on No. 56 when the other team has the ball.
A win is a win. The rain was relentless in the latter stages of the second half and, well, it wasn’t an aesthetically pleasing game. The brand of football played by these two teams was more frustrating than anything (especially when watching Seattle possess the football), but there was joy to be found in the Saints’ defensive performance — especially when watching Davis. Fans of stout run defense likely enjoyed watching the Saints shut down the Seahawks, and we can take a moment to congratulate kicker Brian Johnson, who nailed the game-winning field goal in the final minutes in his first career NFL game. Not every game is pretty in this sport, but they all count the same.
NFL Research: Alvin Kamara became the first running back with eight or more receptions and 100-plus receiving yards in the first half of a game since Brian Westbrook achieved the feat in Week 13 of the 2004 season against the Green Bay Packers.
Next Gen stat of the game: All 11 of Alvin Kamara’s pass targets came on attempts of fewer than 10 air yards. He caught all eight of his targets when aligned in the backfield, gaining 108 yards and scoring the Saints’ only touchdown.