After Further Review: Five takes from Saints victory over Titans

New quarterback Derek Carr (4) finished his first game as a Saint with a win. (AP Photo/Gerald...
New quarterback Derek Carr (4) finished his first game as a Saint with a win. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)(Gerald Herbert | AP)
Published: Sep. 10, 2023 at 7:43 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Take One: Defense deserves all the credit

Have a day Saints defense. You guys are the reason the team is 1-0.

Third down. Red zone. Takeaways. The Saints defense did all three, and every single stop was necessary for victory.

On the opening play, Rashid Shaheed fumbled and put the defense’s back against the wall. They responded by stonewalling the Titans and forcing a field goal. Tennessee wanted touchdowns, but the Saints defense never let them touch the end zone all day.

The secondary smothered the Titans receivers all game long and picked off Ryan Tannehill three times. Frankly, they could’ve had six. That’s how much they were around the ball. Paulson Adebo’s INT finally allowed the offense to breakthrough for the game’s lone touchdown.

As for their first order of business, short of one screen pass, the defense kept Derrick Henry in check most of the game. He finished with 63 yards on 15 carries. The Titans only converted two 3rd downs all game.

It was truly a magnificent effort by Allen’s group, and they deserve all the praise for their efforts.

Take Two: Penning protection issue

It didn’t take long for Trevor Penning to become a storyline. Unfortunately, it was for all the wrong reasons .

Early in the game, Penning couldn’t find his footing, and the offense stalled because of it. Matched up against Arden Key, Penning really struggled. Key wreaked havoc and finished with 1.5 sacks and was even more disruptive than the stats showed. On one play, he turned the corner with ease on Penning and hit Derek Carr’s arm as he threw it. The Saints were fortunate that the play was ruled an incomplete pass on the field. Had the officials let that play play out as a fumble, it may not have been able to be overturned.

Things got a little better for Penning in the second half when the Saints used a back or tight end to chip off the edge. Plus, they ran the ball slightly better which helped slow down the rush a bit.

Dennis Allen said after the game that he was not concerned with Penning. They believe he will continue to improve. It’s expected that the team would stick with last year’s first-round pick. However, if he remains a liability on the edge, they may be forced to rethink their options there. The offense and the quarterback are both counting on stability at that position.

Take Three: Offense makes timely plays

The offense was far from perfect Sunday. In the end though, they made just enough timely plays to win the game.

Despite shaky protection, Carr effectively navigated the pocket to be productive. He finished 23/33 for 305 yards.

No connections were bigger than his two to Shaheed in the second half. After Adebo’s interception, Carr and company cashed in on the field position with a fantastic ball to Shaheed for the game’s lone touchdown. Shaheed used a double move to blow past the corner in off coverage. Carr recognized it and threw a beauty for the score.

On the final drive, a 3rd & 6, Shaheed once again got behind the defense, and Carr cut it loose for a 41-yard gain that essentially ended the game.

Carr said after the game, that both calls demonstrated the trust offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael had in him and the offense, and made a point to say how much he enjoyed the constant communication between he and Carmichael in the game. That’s certainly welcomed news to hear the quarterback and offensive coordinator having such good chemistry.

Overall, this offense will have better days. They will get better. But on this Sunday, they’re timely plays were one of the differences in the game.

Take Four: Grupe delivers

Talk about proving your coaches right.

On the same day Wil Lutz missed an extra point and field goal, the man the Saints chose to replace him with was a major reason for the Saints first victory.

Blake Grupe looked poised and confident as he went 3/3 on field goals and connected on an extra point. His third field goal was from 52 yards and tied up the game when things looked a little sketchy in the second half. His kickoffs were tremendous as well.

In his first professional game, the Saints needed Grupe to step up for them in a big way, and the youngster delivered.

Take Five: Other Observations

  • Incredible atmosphere inside the Dome Sunday. The crowd played a huge role in four Titans’ false starts.
  • Carr admitted that his second quarter interception was just him being dumb. There was no reason for him to force the ball there to Juwan Johnson. Fortunately, he and the offense recovered.
  • How about the Saints first offensive play of the game? Carr went right to Michael Thomas over the top for a 25-yard gain. Thomas had a solid outing.
  • Speaking of solid outings, Chris Olave continues to show WR1 potential. He finished with eight catches for 112 yards. He’s immensely improved in the yards after catch category.
  • Fortunate bounce on the final carry of the game by Jamaal Williams. He actually fumbled the ball but was able to recover.
  • Incredible effort by Isaac Yiadom to tip the deep pass that allowed Marcus Maye to pick off the Tannehill. Yiadom subbed in late for Marshon Lattimore on the play.
  • Speaking of Lattimore, he was elite on Sunday.
  • Sunday was the fifth straight year the Saints opened the season with a win.

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