24 October 2011

Week 7 Rear View: Colts at Saints

To reiterate, every week during the season I'll be posting a summary of the Saints' game, complete with key stats and a "Good, Bad, Ugly" performance review. If you have ideas or feedback, please feel free to submit those to me via blog comment, Twitter, Facebook, email, text, message in a bottle or whatever floats your proverbial boat. 

Also, at four-week intervals, we'll see how the Saints rank league-wide in some important statistical categories. 

Final Score: Saints 62, Colts 7
Record: 5-2
Complete Box Score

Yards Gained: 557
Yards Allowed: 252
Yards/play: 7.4
Yards/play allowed: 5.5

Turnover Differential: +3   [+3, -0], (-4)
First Down Differential: +25   [+36, -11], (+50)
Sack Differential: -1   [+1, -2], (0)
Time of Possession Differential: +16:38   (+43:32)

3rd Down Conversion: 75%, 6/8   (58%, 55/95)
Opponent's 3rd Down Conversion: 36%, 4/11   (39%, 35/90)

2011 Aggregate Point Differential: +81
Average PPG
: 34.1
Opponent's Average PPG: 22.6

* as always, numbers in brackets [x] represent game totals, while numbers in parentheses (y) represent season totals.

The Good
* The comprehensive domination on display from the Saints was a resounding affirmation that these Saints are one of the league's elite teams. Coming off a tough loss to a division rival the week prior, the Saints reminded their fans and the rest of the league that, when they play at their best, they're literally (not virtually) unstoppable. 

Their 62 points tied the league high since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, and the combination of 60+ points, 200+ yards rushing, and 300+ yards passing was a feat only previously accomplished twice prior in NFL history. A historic night indeed. 

The Saints controlled the clock to the tune of a sixteen-and-a-half minute advantage; in their six prior games, the Saints averaged about a four-minute advantage in time of possession. On Sunday night, they quadrupled that average while gaining an astounding 36 first downs (a franchise record). 

More impressively, of the Saints 75 total plays only 8 of those were third downs (11%). The Saints had their way with the Colts on first and second down all night, scoring on their first 9--yes, 9--possessions. 

Most importantly, the Saints reversed course on their two biggest shortfalls of the 2011 season: turnovers and red zone efficiency. The Saints defense generated three takeways, including an INT returned for a TD by Leigh Torrence, and didn't turn the ball over to produce their best single-game turnover margin of the year at +3. 

In the red zone the Saints went 7-of-8 (88%), improving on their lackluster 42% clip coming into the game 

* Drew Brees again reminded Saints' fans of why he's one of the greatest QBs of his era, and probably all-time. Coming off a three-INT performance against Tampa, Brees rebounded to play one of his finest games, going an incredible 31-of-35 (89%) for 325 yards and 5 TDs. Yes, Brees threw more TDs than incompletions and generated a 144.9 passer rating. 

To put Brees' greatness in context, Sunday night's passer rating (144.9) was only the 7th highest of his career (minimum, 20 passing attempts). 

If you think back to how Brees utterly devastated the Colts on Sunday night, and then think that this was only his 7th best game as a pro--at least according to passer rating statistics--it provides proper perspective as to just how brilliant Brees has been throughout his career. 

The games where Brees outpaced his 144.9 rating? In ascending order: 149.1 (Nov. '05);149.2 (Oct '04); 153.1 (Oct. '04)156.8 (Oct. '09); 157.5 (Nov. '08);  and a perfect 158.3 against the Patriots on Monday night in November 2009. 

Finally, Brees leads the league in several categories through seven weeks: completions, attempts, yards, completion percentage, and third-down QB rating (an astounding 133.7). Brees is second in TDs and third in passer rating.

* Marques Colston forcefully reasserted himself into the Saints' offense with a second consecutive excellent game, catching 7 passes on 7 targets for 98 yards and 2 TDs. Colston's leaping first quarter TD reception illustrated the full complement of Colston's skill set: a precise route to find a soft spot in the end zone, his athleticism, and his sure-handed concentration. 

With the emergence of Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles in 2011, coupled with Colston's early-season injury, Colston seemed to become almost an afterthought as the Saints moved forward without him. But now, with Colston rounding back into form and making an impact, Saints' fans are reminded of not just how good Colston is, but also how important he is as a red-zone target. 

Both Colston's TDs on Sunday night came in the red zone, and his presence going forward will certainly enable the Saints to continue improving in their red zone efficiency. 

* Mark Ingram and the Saints' running game produced a season-high 236 yards on 38 carries (6.2 yards per carry). Further, the 236 yards ties for the most rushing yards in a game during the Sean Payton era (2006 against the Giants). 

Ingram produced his best game of the season, gaining 91 yards on 14 carries for a season-best 6.5 yards per carry. Ingram was well on his way to his first 100-yard game as a pro, but an injured heel in the fourth quarter knocked him out of the game. 

Additionally, Darren Sproles gained 88 yards on 7.3 yards per carry and Pierre Thomas chipped in with 57 yards on 5.7 yards per carry. 

Finally, the offensive line played its best game of the season and appeared fully in-sync. They dominated the Colts front-four and opened innumerable holes for the Saints RBs. With the offensive line still a work in progress, Sunday night's showing was a promising sign for a unit that has struggled a bit with consistency thus far in 2011. 

The Bad
* There's not much "bad" to say about a team that wins a game by 55 points. But the one area where the Saints struggled on Sunday night--again--was run defense.

The Colts rushed for 155 yards on 23 carries and averaged a hefty 6.7 yards per carry. Specifically, the Saints allowed another unheralded RB--this time rookie RB Delone Carter--to have an excellent game. Carter gained 89 yards on 10 carries including the Colts' only TD. Carter's 42 yard-run in the second quarter highlighted the Saints' defensive weakness for big plays and spotty tackling. 

On the season, the Saints are allowing opponents to gain an unsightly 5.4 yards per carry. This ranks 31st in the league, .1 yard shy of the league-worst Rams. 

Additionally, the Saints have shown a propensity week after week to permit big runs. They've allowed a 42-yard run from Matt Forte, 41 from Maurice Jones-Drew, 69 from DeAngelo Williams, 34 from Earnest Graham, and last night's 42-yarder from Delone Carter.

This is certainly an area that could use significant improvement. 

The Ugly
* Nothing of note. 

Worth Repeating
"Special night tonight. It's fun playing games like this when it seems like whatever you call, it's working." - Jimmy Graham 

photos courtesy of Yahoo! Sports

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