The New Orleans Saints did an outstanding job this past Sunday, ripping out the win in overtime against the Atlanta Falcons 43-37. Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas had their outstanding days, continuing their great season starts and moving the Saints to 2-1.

In this series, we like to look for positives. Positives truly make the world go around, and keep people on their feet. In this, we look for good schemes, player strengths and whatever else may factor into a teams success. Tomorrow, when we look at the New York Giants, we will talk about what can be exploited.

But first, let’s break down the Saints week three!

Play One: 1st Quarter, 15:00

Falcons ball. 1st and 10 on the New Orleans 25. First play of the game.

This is a really nice play call by Sean Payton to start off the game. The Saints are going to line up four wide with Kamara and challenge this secondary to kick off the game. Three receivers are lined up to the left, the tight end and Kamara on the right. Two of the receivers are going to run deep, the outside receiver running a go route down the sideline and the slot guy running a little nod’n’go.

Michael Thomas is going to run a deep drag across the field, sort of drifting past the first down marker and toward the right sideline. Ben Watson, the tight end, runs a drag across the field and is the dump off option if no one is open down the field.

The Falcons first mistake was going cover one man to begin the game. Cover one man is when their is one deep safety playing zone, and is the only man back to protect against a big play. Everyone else on the play is in man coverage.

What happened?

Thomas got the first step on the defender, and the safety watched the receivers going deep instead of Brees’ eyes. Brees delivered a perfect strike and Thomas rumbled down the sideline for a huge gain to start the game.

All of the routes going deep was suppose to clear out the bottom of the field so that the check down receiver is wide open. The perfect defender would have read Brees’ eyes and followed Thomas. Instead, the safety bit on all of the action going deep, not trusting his eyes, and had to correct himself to come back over where Brees threw the football, the empty side of the field. If he doesn’t make that tackle, Thomas is going for a touchdown.

Play Two: 3rd Quarter, 6:16

Falcons ball. 1st and goal from the Atlanta 11. Falcons lead 21-16.

The Saints took a false start right before this play that moved them back five yards to the eleven yard line. The Saints are going to spread the defense out by going five wide. Every receiver is going to run a curl route. This is all about Drew Brees finding the right match-up pre-snap. The curl route is a timing route, and requires a quick throw to be made before the cornerback can get into position to break on the football.

The Falcons defense is running what we call a Cover Two Sink. The two safeties will be playing deep, splitting the end zone into halves for each other to cover, hence the term cover 2. The five corners and linebackers all sink back into zones underneath, trying to keep the play in front of them. That’s the key here, if the play gets behind them, there is going to be trouble.

What happened?

The defense did well the first five seconds of the play, locking up Brees with nowhere to throw the football. The pass rush couldn’t get to him because of his mobility, and the receivers started to move around, feeling for the spots in between the zones.

This is one of Meredith’s elite traits. If you watch his tape in Chicago, he thrived at getting to good places when the play broke down. He finds the soft spot and gets behind his coverage coming back to the ball. If you watch, you will notice the nickelback, Brian Poole, dives desperately trying to prevent the play from happening. The safety comes down and delivers a powerful hit but it’s too late.

The mistake made was by Poole. Robert Alford lined up on Meredith before the play started. He stayed true to his zone, where Poole decided to stay on Michael Thomas. Poole didn’t see Meredith enter his zone until it was too late.

Play Three: 4th Quarter, 2:16

Saints ball. 3rd and 2 from the Atlanta 9. Falcons lead 37-30.

Personally, I love the wildcat. It opens the offense to many possibilities that are difficult to defend, especially if your wildcat quarterback is an actual back-up quarterback. 3rd string quarterback Taysom Hill entered the game on five snaps, two of them as the wildcat quarterback.

This is a simple read option. Taysom Hill is watching to see how the outside linebackers react. If they bite on the running back, he keeps the ball and goes outside. If they cut off the outside run, he gives it to Kamara up the gut. There’s no run pass option, or RPO, it’s just a read option.

What happened?

Taysom Hill keeps the ball and goes outside. He is such a physical runner with surprising speed. This play is extremely gutsy on Sean Payton’s part. First off, earlier in the game, Hill burned the Falcons for 35 yards on the same exact play. Here he is on 3rd and 2, game on the line, giving it to a 3rd string quarterback on a read option.

The first down is gained, and Sean Payton looks like a genius. I mean, that’s how it normally goes, but still. It’s impressive to see what new things he tries and what works.

Other Notes:

For your information, Drew Brees has throw for 1078 yards and 8 touchdowns the first three games, with no interceptions. At 39 years old, that is an extremely impressive start to the season. Even more impressive, he is completing 80.6% of his passes. His passer rating sits at 122.2 so far. An excellent start for the aging veteran quarterback with a young Teddy Bridgewater waiting for his turn behind him.

Michael Thomas now has an NFL record! No receiver has ever caught more passes (38) in the first three games of a season in the 99 years the NFL has been existent. What’s even more impressive is that he has caught 95% of his targets, an astonishing rate.

Alvin Kamara has been the key factor in this offense. So far, he has accumulated 430 scrimmage yards and 3 touchdowns on 67 touches. What’s more impressive is he has double the receiving yards (289) then he does rushing (141). Kamara is a valuable piece to this team, and he will be for a long time. Imagine how much better this offense will be when Mark Ingram returns.

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