New Orleans improved to .500 for the first time this season and did so with a dominant effort in Oakland. The Raiders have been pretty abysmal this season after a series of injuries, but the Saints did a great job of never allowing them in this game. Brees and the offense got it going early with a first quarter TD and the defense followed soon after an INT return for a score by Malcolm Jenkins. At the end of the day, Brees shredded the Raiders secondary for three scores and did so on only 219 yards. He could have easily raised that number but it simply wasn’t necessary. Palmer had a similar line that he has had all season with over 300 yards and a couple of scores, but also added 2 interceptions. The mistakes were costly and the Saints did a great job at capitalizing.
One point of concern was the rushing defense in this one. Despite Oakland down their starting two RBs, FB Marcel Reece was given the spot start. He had quite a game with 103 yards on the ground and another 90 through the air. Giving up nearly 200 yards to a third string RB isn’t exactly a comforting thought. You have to imagine his impact would be much greater if the game was closer, but for at least this game, it wasn’t an issue.
We all know the defense is going to struggle at times, but limiting the damage is key. They were able to do that well on Sunday and escape with an easy win despite over 400 yards of offense. Not every game is going to be like that, of course. For now though, New Orleans is 5-5 and very much in the playoff race. The Wild Card is lead by Chicago who just was annihilated by the 49ers. With Cutler out of the lineup, this is a completely different team. They stand at 7-3, but the mark doesn’t mean much if their QB can’t get on the field. Luckily for them, he seems likely to return this week. The Seahawks and Buccaneers both have 6 wins, but both have major flaws. Tampa also has a pretty miserable pass D, while Seattle struggles on the road. Both will be tested this week with teams that can exploit those weaknesses. Dallas and Minnesota also has 6 wins, but they can only go as far as Christian Ponder can take them. It will be interesting to see how the young QB holds up for the rest of the year. Dallas is 5-5, but are on a roller coaster season so they are nearly impossible to predict.
New Orleans needs to only worry about their selves at this point. All they can control is their own games and they have to keep on winning. Next up is a tough challenge with SF coming to town. They are coming off a big win over Chicago in which Colin Kaepernick spot started for Alex Smith and played a remarkable game. The talk in San Fran has the young QB likely to start in next weeks game even if Smith is ready to go. There is also talk of a rotation which could complicate things for both teams. The most likely scenario is that the hot hand gets the vast majority of snaps and that looks like Kaepernick at this point. More on that game in my next post.