Inside the Game: Week 1 AT New Orleans Saints

The game reviews are back, however, a much different format this go round.  Previously, the reviews started with stat recaps and built off of those with limited vision of broadcast footage.  This year, I’m able to use the all-22 films from two different angles that show so much more.  From initial formations to how the plays develop.  This allows more insight on what the mix is on offense/defense as well as exposing what happened on plays allowing for far more accurate player evaluation.

Without further ado, let’s get started with formations.  Excluding punts, field goals, extra points and kickoffs the offense used 4 personnel groups:

11 (1 RB, 1 TE) – 30 times

12 (1 RB, 2 TE) – 3

20 (2 RB, 0 TE) – 2

21 (2 RB, 1 TE) – 7

Defense was very, very simplistic with the base 4-3, 5-2, 5-3, 4-2-5 nickel and 3-3-5 nickel (which is simply the 4-2-5 personnel with Biermann standing up).  Further, Stephen Nicholas was not on the field in any defensive formation.  In the base 4-3 and 5-2, you had various rotations of linemen.  While coverage assignments varied, these were the only 3 defenses we ran.  I found it surprising that we never went to a dime package (for reasons that will be very evident).

All that said, it sets up the drive breakdowns.  Future breakdowns will have far less introduction but I think a walkthrough is helpful with the new format.  What follows will be each drive with a summary of good and bad things and key points.

Drive #1 (Offense):  3 plays, punt.

21 personnel once, 11 personnel twice.  The first play was a run for 3 yards.  Lamar Holmes failed to seal his man off which shortened the gain.  The second play was a 5 yard run that started with Konz moving too far left allowing disruption but Blalock saved the play and opened up the hole for 5.  The final play was an incompletion to Gonzalez that clearly should have been called pass interference.  Drive ended due to a failed penalty (While I refuse to blame officiating as you’ll see later, it played its part)

Drive #2 (Defense): 4 plays, punt

Key points here is that McClain got beat for 16 yards by Lance Moore.  Osi and Biermann get pressure causing an incompletion and Alford breaks up a 3rd down pass.  The 5-2 was used twice, 4-2-5/3-3-5 twice.  6 yard return on the punt.

Drive #3 (Offense): 6 plays, touchdown

Variety of personnel, 11 once, 12 twice, 10 once, 22 once, 21 once.  Toilolo was used a good bit in this drive.  Line protected well against 5 man rush on 1st play for 11 completion to Douglas.  Second play was a designed screen to Julio for 5 yards.  With 9 in the box, Jackson ran a cutback which Toilolo sealed off his man very well for 5 yards on the third play.  The fourth play saw a crossing route by Douglas for 51 yards.  Pass protection was good.  On the fifth play, Jackson got 3 yards out of it but Holmes blocked straight ahead.  If he had turned his man right, it would have opened things up more.  The final play was the 7 yard pass to Gonzalez for the score, again, pass protection was good.

Drive #4 (Defense):  6 plays, turnover on downs

First play in 5-2, Weatherspoon was all over Moore and stopped him for a 2 yard gain.  The second play showed a weakness that New Orleans exploited throughout the game.  Formation was 4-2-5 with man coverage and 2 deep safeties.  Sproles gets a 14 yard completion essentially because Dent was slow to the coverage.  Third play, 5-2, Dent makes the stop after a 4 yard gain.  Fourth play, 4-3, good gap discipline by Spoon and Dent, Peters sheds a blocker and makes a play on Sproles after a 2 yard gain.  Fifth play, 3rd and 4, 5-2 defense, Dent and Weatherspoon collide and then Dent proceeds to go downfield and there’s absolutely no one there, meanwhile, Sproles comes out of the backfield while Osi gets pressure.  Had it not been for Weatherspoon being quick this would have easily been a first down. It appeared to be a case of either a miscommunication or Dent blowing an assignment.  On the final play, 4th and 1, 5-3-3, defense, Goodman gets the initial pressure with Dent finishing off the 2 yard loss.

Drive #5 (Offense): 8 plays, field goal

Personnel 21 twice, 12 twice, 11 three times.  First play is a well designed FB pass to Ewing for 15 yards.  Second play is Jackson off the right side for a yard.  Toilolo late on his block but gets there, 1 LB unblocked blew the play.  Holmes and Reynolds had the DT doubled apparently by design.  Third pass was a designed pass to Jackson in the flats for 3 yards.  The fourth play showed good pass protection and it’s clear that Ryan saw the huge hole and took it for 11 yards to get the 1st down with a late hit penalty tacked on.  The fifth play had Jenkins off left for 2 yards.  Key point on this play was John Jenkins literally throwing Konz off of him in order to make the play.  Sixth play, Rodgers runs off right tackle for -1.  The blocking was good, the numbers on the right side were not.  Two Saints defenders were unblocked.  Play was doomed from the beginning.  Seventh play, Baker allows pressure causing Ryan to throw it away.  Field goal is good, 10-0.  Points are good but inside the 10 yard line, you want the TD.

Drive #6 (Defense):  12 plays, field goal

Last drive of the 1st quarter and started the 2nd after the 3rd play.  1st play, 4-3,  Very well-blocked, Thomas gets 8 and Biermann gets the stop.  2nd play, 4-3, Dent/Biermann combine to stop Thomas for -1.  3rd play, 3-3-5, Sproles beats Moore in man for 7 yards. 4th play, 4-3, no pressure and McClain still makes a nice pass breakup.  5th play, 3-3-5, Babineaux stuffs Sproles for 1 yard.  6th play, 3-3-5, man coverage with Dent playing deep zone.  Graham beats DeCoud but Dent is slow with over the top help results in 21 yards.  7th play, 3-3-5, shows a well-blocked running play that Dent stops after 4 yards.  8th play, 4-3, Dent is slow on covering HB, results in a first down.  9th play, 4-3, is a well-blocked run play results in 7 yards but the encouraging thing here is that Biermann fought off the FB block to make the tackle.  10th play, 4-3, Massaquoi misses the tackle but does disrupt Ingram off the left side stringing him out for DeCoud/Weatherspoon to get a 4 yard loss.  11th play, 4-2-5, Osi gets pressure and Trufant has good coverage and breaks up the pass. Field goal is good, 10-3 Atlanta.

Drive #7 (Offense):  1 play, fumble

21 personnel, Hawley is in at TE, 22 yard pass to Julio, good protection, Julio gets stripped.  Huge swing in momentum on this play.

Drive #8 (Defense): 3 plays, touchdown

1st play, 4-2-5, Thomas gets 5 with Dent and Peters combining on the stop.  2nd play, 4-2-5, Peters gets good push and holds the HB to a 1 yard gain.  3rd play, 3-3-5, Dent slow on deep zone coverage, Colston catches for the score.  10-10 Tied

Drive #9 (Offense):  8 plays, punt

Personnel:  11- 4 times, 12- 2 times, 21 once.  1st play, ball could have been thrown sooner giving Jackson more room but results in 16 yards.  2nd play, while the ball was thrown a little behind, this was clearly a drop on Jackson.  3rd play, Konz misses a block on linebacker, Jackson rushes for -1.  4th play, designed rollout complete to Roddy White for 14 yards.  5th play showed good pass protection, complete to Rodgers for 3.  6th play, again good pass protection, short completion to Julio for 3.  7th play, Baker allows pressure causing Ryan to throw it away on 3rd and 4 BUT clearly shown is illegal hands to the face causing Baker’s helmet to come off.  Falcons are forced to punt although the drive should have continued.  This is the 2nd drive out of 5 so far that ended due to missed calls.  Again, I don’t and won’t pin the loss on officials but 2 drives being stopped due to missed calls is far too many and this wouldn’t be the last occurrence.

Drive #10 (Defense):  8 plays, field goal

1st play, 4-3, Thomas gets a 4 yard gain and Peters just barely missed him but could have had another stop at the line.  Peters has really stepped up his game and progressed.  2nd play, 4-2-5, McClain gets beat at the line of scrimmage by Stills and DeCoud is late over the top resulting in a 67 yard play.  3rd play, Ingram stuffed after 2 yards, Peters makes the play again.  4th play, Babineaux gets penetration and gets held, 10 yard penalty.  5th play, 4-2-5, Weatherspoon gets caught up in traffic, Sproles gets free but a holding penalty brings this one back too.  6th play, 4-2-5, basic under zone to contain any kind of completion to small gain, results in a pass to Sproles for 7.  7th play, 3-3-5, Osi gets pressure and forces a dump off to Sproles for 7 yards, ending the drive.  Field goal is good.  13-10 New Orleans.

Drive #11 (Offense): 6 plays, punt

Personnel:  11-4, 20-1.  1st play, good protection, complete to Douglas for 12 yards.  2nd play, good protection again, complete to Julio for 21.  3rd play, nothing there, incomplete to Gonzalez, looked like a throw away due to coverage.  4th play, Gonzalez whiffs on a block and results in a sack.  5th play, Looked like a botched play that resulted in intentional grounding.  Announcers said it may have been a miscommunication on the route and I believe that to be the case.  Drive ends with the punt.

Drive #12 (Defense):  2 plays, Halftime

1st play, 4-2-5, Peters stops Sproles after 4 yard gain.  Again, Peters is having a day.  2nd play, 4-2-5, Weatherspoon stuffs the run to end the half.

Drive #13 (Defense): 3 plays, punt

1st play, 3-3-5.  Stills had beaten Alford, Brees just threw a bad ball.  2nd play, 4-2-5, Ingram picks up 2 yards and appeared to slip or fall.  3rd play, 4-2-5, Babineaux gets the intial pressure while Peters cleans up and gets the sack. Douglas gets 13 yards on the punt return.

Drive #14 (Offense): 5 plays, touchdown

Personnel:  21 -2, 12-1, 11-2.  1st play, designed screen to Jones for 3 yards.  2nd play, I-formation, Jackson busts off a 50 yard run off the right side.  Very well blocked.  3rd play, Ryan had three seconds but threw it incomplete to Douglas.  Konz allowed the pressure.  4th play, Jackson runs up the middle for 2 yards.  An instance of the little things:  1 LB was unblocked.  Had Blalock turned to his left it would have opened up the hole enough for Jackson to get more yards. 5th play, nice pass protection, complete to Jones for the touchdown.  17-13 Atlanta.

Drive #15 (Defense): 11 plays, touchdown

1st play, 4-2-5, Colston picks up a 5 yard completion. Trufant was right there on him to limit the gain.  Good coverage and has to be deemed a “win”.  2nd play, 3-3-5, 13 yard completion to Watson.  Trufant had to have missed an assignment.  3rd play, Biermann makes a nice play after Thomas gains 4 yards.  4th play, Bad pass to Graham, incomplete.  5th play, 4-2-5, Biermann gets pressure but Moore gets beat by Sproles and picks up 22 yards.  6th play, 3-3-5, Moore comes right back to make a nice athletic breakup and almost got the interception.  Holding called on the play on New Orleans.  7th play, 4-3, Complete to Thomas for 8 yards.  Weatherspoon was unable to get to coverage on Thomas due to a double team block.  8th play, 4-2-5, Alford gets beat by Stills on a curl/comeback route for 19 yards.  9th play, 4-2-5, Sproles off right guard for 5 yards.  Very well-blocked play.  FB blocked Dent right out of the gap.  10th play, 4-3, Biermann didn’t pick up Graham in the zone, 7 yard completion.  11th play, DeCoud was late picking up Graham and resulted in a touchdown.  20-17 New Orleans.

Drive #16 (Offense):  4 plays, punt

Personnel: 21 -1, 11- 1, 20-1.  1st play, out of the I, Jackson off left tackle for 1.  Play was there but Baker didn’t maintain his block long enough. 2nd play, Ryan sacked, Baker got flattened.  3rd play, Holmes allowed pressure by helping Reynolds which forced Ryan to get rid of it early.  Had to be a missed assignment.  Punt.

Drive #17 (Defense):  1 play, interception

4-2-5, Alford makes a great read and a great play to get the interception.

Drive #18 (Offense): 4 plays, punt

Personnel: 21-1, 11-2.  1st play, Holmes gets beat for a sack.  2nd play, Blalock released his block and ran up field as you would expect on a screen and Holmes allowed pressure as well.  Ryan threw it away but it looked like a busted play from the beginning.  3rd play, deep routes were covered, Snelling was best available option for 9 yards.  A. Smith made the play on the punt.

Drive #19 (Defense): 11 plays, punt (ends 3rd qtr and begins 4th qtr)

1st play, 4-3, McClain has tight coverage on Colston, 5 yard completion.  2nd play, 4-3, Massoquoi just misses the tackle on Thomas and results in a 4 yard gain.  3rd play, 4-3, well-blocked, 11 yard run.  4th play, 4-3, Biermann is in the right gap but gets blocked, Moore knifes in to make the stop after a 4 yard gain.  Nice play by Moore.  5th play, 4-2-5, Dent late (again) with help, results in a 10 yard completion to Graham.  (4th qtr begins) 6th play, 4-2-5, Peters was literally spun around by his arm by the FB after getting the pressure but no hold was called.  Brees scrambles for 4 yards.  7th play, 4-3, Dent left the cross pattern open in the zone, results in a 14 yard completion.  He committed to the right side and Colston just ran right by him with the proverbial “ankle breaking”.  8th play, 4-3, Osi misses a tackle resulting in a 3 yard gain.  9th play, 4-2-5, DeCoud was way too deep but fortunately, a bad pass resulting in an incompletion.  10th play, 4-2-5, I still have no idea where Brees was throwing this ball.  Punt downed at the 9.

Drive #20 (Offense):  7 plays, punt

Personnel: 21-1, 11-5.  1st play, Jackson off right tackle for 5.  Nice first play.  2nd play, Holmes and Reynolds both make key blocks springing Jackson on a screen for 17 yards.  3rd play, another short pass to Jackson for 2.  If Toilolo breaks off his route and blocks, it goes for more.  4th play, Baker allows pressure, incomplete intended for Jones.  5th play, Baker again allows pressure and holds negating a 17 yard completion. 6th play, you don’t pick this one up unless you watch the all 22 from both angles.  Ryan sees a hole between Reynolds and Holmes to step up in the pocket.  He does so but locks on to his safety route and continues going and finally throwing to Snelling for 8 yards, well short of the first.  By watching both angles, you can clearly see that if Ryan steps up and stops or throws at the point of being even with the linemen he had a wide open Drew Davis right in front of him for a first down.  Ryan doesn’t miss many opportunities but he missed that one.  Sproles gets 5 yards on the return stopped cold by A. Smith.

Drive #21 (Defense):  10 plays, field goal

1st play, 4-3, Babineaux held by fullback (another uncalled penalty) that gives Brees enough time to hit Watson for 16 yards.  2nd play, 4-3, Babineaux missed a tackle but disrupted enough for Dent to clean up to throw Ingram for a 3 yard loss.  3rd play, 4-2-5, Weatherspoon beat by Sproles for a 32 yard completion. 4th play, 4-2-5, Jerry disrupts and Osi stops Sproles for a 1 yard gain.  5th play, 4-3, Osi gets pressure and Jerry cleans up for the sack of Brees.  6th play, 4-2-5, Colston beats the zone, Dent is way too deep to be able to help or do anything, 19 yard gain.  7th play, 3-3-5, Ingram goes off left tack, Moore blows the play up and stops him for 2 yard gain.  8th play, 4-2-5, Weatherspoon has nice coverage on Thomas for a -1 yard reception.  9th play, 4-2-5, Weatherspoon and Dent left middle of the field open, L. Moore gets 7 yard reception.  Chip shot field goal is good.  23-17 New Orleans

Drive #22 (Offense):  10 plays, interception

Personnel:  11 – entire drive.  1st play, Julio makes  a great catch for 17 yards.  Reynolds got pushed back interfering with the throw.  2nd play, pass protection is good, complete to Gonzalez for 16.  3rd play, Saints run a delayed stunt that Blalock couldn’t pick up but Jackson gets 7 anyways.  4th play, good protection, complete to Gonzalez for 13 yards. 5th play,  Ryan checks from a pass to a run (bad move), Blalock and Konz double a DT leaving the MLB unblocked, Rodgers gets nothing.  6th play, nice pass protection, Rodgers picked up the MLB very well, 20 yard completion to Douglas.  7th play, Ryan over throws Douglas, who was open and would have been a touchdown.  8th play, complete pass to White for 4 yards, blatant facemask call missed.  9th play, Jackson drops pass that would have been a touchdown.  Three missed opportunities (2 by Falcons own doing) consecutively.  Final play:  You don’t see this on the broadcast either but I can tell you that Harry Douglas was option #1 as he was the first read Ryan made.  Douglas had used his 5 yard cushion to push off and get open.  Konz gets beat and Reynolds is late helping preventing Ryan to throw it to the left side and instead going to Gonzalez who did get his hands on it but unfortunately, the defender deflected it at the same time.  While Baker also allowed pressure on this play, had Konz not gotten beat, Ryan still would have had time to throw to Douglas over Baker’s pressure.

Drive #23 (Defense): 2 play, end of game

2 kneel downs.


Special Teams – Neither team wanted to take chances with the other team’s return men.  Antone Smith is a force on special teams.

Offense:  Nothing wrong with play calling, plenty of variety.  Execution is responsible for the loss more than anything as was clearly visible on the last drive.  Officiating missed far too many blatant calls against Atlanta but despite all the shortcomings, the game was there for the taking.

Blocking:  On run blocks mostly just the little things here and there.  Holmes is the most deficient in the run blocking area.  Baker, Konz and Holmes all struggled in pass protection.  Reynolds was a distant 4th and Blalock was just about flawless.  Best we can hope for is that this was a result of the lack of cohesiveness and simple youth.  The only one that doesn’t work for is Baker.  Baker just has to play better.  None of the mistakes he made can be attributed to inexperience but was simply due to getting beat badly.

Defensive line:  I keep reading that the Falcons don’t have a pass rush but as you can see, we got plenty of pressure, especially knowing that Brees is a tough QB to sack.  Osi had quite a few pressures, Peters was in beast mode.  He has really made strides and forms a formidable duo with Babineaux.  Biermann did well along with Massaquoi and Goodman in their limited snaps. Jerry also made several plays in the rotation.  There is room for improvement as with all things but I thought they played really well.

Pass coverage:  For the most part, our corners held their own.  Yes, there were some plays they got beat on but that’s a given, it wasn’t horrible.  The safeties were hit and miss in coverage.  With their experience and ability, they definitely under-performed in the game.  The one adjustment I was looking for was to move from a 4-2-5 or a 3-3-5 to a 4-1-6 or a 3-2-6 or at least using Nicholas in place of Dent.  Dent was absolutely horrible in coverage.  He’s very solid against the run but he’s a major liability in coverage.  I’m looking forward to see what happens this week with that situation.

Run defense:  Really hard to complain about a 2.7 yards per carry average.  Outside of a couple of 7 yard runs and the 11 yard run, no complaints at all.

As for Matt Ryan, he’s Matt Ryan.  He made a small handful of mistakes but nothing to complain about.  Even overthrowing Douglas, he came right back and threw a more than catchable ball to Jackson.

Looking ahead to the Rams, the obvious focus will be on the offensive line and how much they improve.  Given what Coach Smith said, he expects a big improvement and you can probably take it to the bank that if it doesn’t get better we’ll see a new component on the line.  I’m also intrigued with the Nicholas/Dent situation.  Was Nicholas more hurt than Coach Smith stated or was Nicholas simply not played due to performance concerns?  Hard for me to believe he’d be any worse than Dent in coverage.  I’m sure Coach Nolan cringed like I did watching how slow Dent was in coverage and how lost he appeared to be and because of that, I think he’s going to do something different this week.  We simply cannot continue giving up as many plays to RB’s and TE’s as we did Sunday.

Hope you enjoyed this new format and I hope the information on the personnel, plays, etc. gives some insight on why things happened and should also allow you to do some trend analysis on what we do in down and distance.  I look forward to reading your comments and the game against the St. Louis Rams this weekend!


3 Comments on "Inside the Game: Week 1 AT New Orleans Saints"

  1. This was a great write up. I just don’t think we did enough of the little things. Not surprised about threes, par for the course with this game.

  2. Err, refs…stupid autocorrect!

  3. Thanks Descartes! Glad you liked it. Next one hits tonight!

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