Just like that, the Saints are back to .500. After starting the season 0-4, it's hard to believe the Saints are now 5-5 and right in the thick of the wild card race, but a convincing win in Oakland did just that. The Raiders look like a lost team in complete disarray, sure, but the way the Saints were able to come in and thrash them is a very encouraging sign. The defense played well, getting good pressure and creating turnovers, and while they were still gashed for yards I'm starting to buy into the idea that they are getting better. The Saints are peaking, my friends, and that should be a very scary sign for all NFL teams. They are closer to a complete team in all phases now and that makes them incredibly dangerous to anyone. Below are my bullets on the game.
- The red zone defense may be Steve Spagnuolo's saving grace this season. Another outstanding effort, which featured an interception in the end zone by Roman Harper. Yes, you read that correctly.
- Malcolm Jenkins showed terrific anticipation and ballhawking skills, yes you also read that correctly, so jump in front of a Carson Palmer pass and take it to the house for a pick six. Those are the kind of big plays the Saints' defense has been missing all season.
- Nickel back Elbert Mack played very well, so well in fact it surprised me that he hasn't really seen the field over Patrick Robinson and Corey White yet this season. Hopefully he's ok because I definitely want to see him back out there over some other guys. In fact, as soon as he left the game he was replaced by Johnny Patrick who proceeded to get repeatedly torched.
- Patrick Robinson had an up and down game, decent overall, but the first touchdown pass by Palmer was a major mistake where the Saints had the Raiders competely bottled up and P-Rob just stopped paying attention. Very poor on that play.
- After a massive 2nd half kickoff return by Travaris Cadet, the Saints went to dump truck mode. Ingram would run a beautiful touchdown run on the very next play. The Saints ran the ball pretty well over all. When Sproles comes back, presumably next week, what are the Saints going to do with these five backs? They're all SO good. I usually tend to agree that there's no such thing as having "too many good backs", but the Saints might have that problem.
- Garrett Hartley nailed a 47 yarder, which was important for his confidence, but it wasn't a pretty make.
- Marcel Reese had 193 yards from scrimmage. Not a typo. But the Saints held the Raiders to 17 points so I won't ream them too hard for that.
- Roman Harper had a couple mistakes, but this was his best game of the season. He played aggressive and was all over the field.
- The Saints' tackling was poor, in fact that's the one thing I wish Harper had done better. Vilma in particular tackled quite poorly.
- The Saints' pressure seems to be coming back. They finished with 3 sacks and were consistently in Palmer's face.
- Charles Brown went down with an injury and was replaced at right tackle by undrafted rookie Bryce Harris. Harris was largely a disaster, but the Saints did a good job of covering for him. We've got to hope that either Brown is ok, or that Zach Strief can get back in a hurry. Not good.
- Akiem Hicks is an absolute beast on the interior. I get a little more excited every day about his potential.
- Lance Moore had only 2 catches, but he made them count. He got behind the Raiders twice and came up with big time scores.
The Saints now come back home to face the team that eliminated them last year, the San Francisco 49ers, for a shot at 6-5. Bring it on!