Saints Defense Stymies Bridgewater Led Vikings
The Saints don't lose at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome under Sean Payton, and the Minnesota Vikings became another feather in his cap on Sunday.
The last time the New Orleans Saints lost at home was Week 17 of the 2010 season against Tampa Bay, and ever since then opposing teams have met their maker in front of a deafening crowd. After starting the season 0-2 with losses to Cleveland and the rival Falcons, the Saints needed some home-cooking more than ever.
Coach Payton admitted his team was far from perfect in their 20-9 victory over a Vikings squad searching for answers in the wake of the Adrian Peterson debacle.
"I thought, offensively, in the second half, it got a little slow and sloppy," Payton said in his postgame comments.
Drew Brees still threw for 293 yards, completing 27/35 passing attempts, and led his team to a late drive to put the game out of reach; however, he was short on several throws and the offense was lackluster for a long time after two early scores. On a bright note, Marques Colston came out of hiding to collect the TD grab to ice things after not even receiving a glance last week in the passing game.
The running game struggled to provide big chunks of yardage, but Pierre Thomas still registered a TD and Khiry Robinson helped burn clock late with some physical running.
Do you see the theme here? A lot of bright spots, but...too many buts.
One of the main stress factors for Saints fans heading into this week was the defense's poor performance. The Vikings tallied 247 yards and never touched the endzone. The hogs up front held Minnesota to only 59 rushing yards on 22 attempts, and Coach Payton was pleased to see his defense bend but not break.
"Those redzone stops and being able to force a field goal, I thought was very significant," Payton told the media after the game. "That's the one thing we were able to do when we were playing well last year, and we were able to do it today."
When evaluating the defense, it's key to remember they dealt with a plot twist. The NFL got its first glimpse of Teddy Bridgewater after the Vikings starting QB, Matt Cassell, left the game with a broken foot. Based on his performance and the significance of the injury, Cassell might be wearing a baseball cap when he returns to good health.
Acknowledging the obvious lack of a touchdown drive, it would be fair to say Bridgewater's time behind center offered more excitement than Cassell's by far. Bridgewater eluded tackles in the backfield, found his checkdowns and generally held a high level of poise.
The Saints were able to keep the rookie out of the endzone, but his lively presence in the backfield had the television broadcasters fondly referring to him as "Teddy" before the game's end. While Rob Ryan's crew should be encouraged with keeping touchdowns off the board, how concerned should they be with forcing zero turnovers against a far-from-perfect Minnesota offense guided by a rookie quarterback?
Hands are pulling off the panic button all around Who Dat Nation after this win, and why not? Colston came out of witness protection to catch a touchdown, the defense didn't allow a touchdown and Brandin Cooks continued to build his rapport with Brees. A little caution might be advised in premature celebration though.
Not every team left on the schedule is going to be missing their centerpiece running back for the entire year and lose their starting quarterback mid-game. If the defense doesn't start creating turnovers and the offense continues to lack its usual shimmer and sheen, the Saints can expect rough days against stouter, playoff-caliber opponents.
One thing is for sure though. After starting the season 0-2, including a loss to the habitually problem-ridden Browns, no win can be qualified as ugly.