The New Orleans Saints expended 100 pounds of sweat equity into rushing the passer Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, and they only got to Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco one time.
But that one time made a huge difference in New Orleans’ 24-23 victory, the fifth straight win for the Saints (5-1) and their third straight road victory this season.
The defense needed to get off the field, and after having seen the Ravens convert on third-and-6, fourth-and-7, and third-and-4 on previous possessions, stopping Baltimore on third-and-10, from its 25-yard line with 12:09 left, wasn’t a given.
And – oh, by the way – since the Saints trailed 17-14 at the time, the offense needed the ball back.
So when Flacco dropped back, it wasn’t a routine dropback. The Ravens rolled the pocket to the right, to try to buy him more time.
That part of the plan worked; Flacco had ample time. But what wasn’t anticipated was the stickiness with which the Saints would defend in the secondary, or, perhaps, the motor that defensive end Alex Okafor would display.
Several seconds into the play, the walls closed in on Flacco. Specifically, Okafor fought and scrapped and tracked down Flacco for a 10-yard sack, to force a Baltimore punt.
With that piece of business taken care of, the Saints’ offense took over at its 44 and drove 56 yards in 12 plays, to take a 21-17 lead on Michael Thomas’ 5-yard touchdown catch from Drew Brees.
From there, another defensive stop (Okafor was credited with the pressure on the fourth-down stop), a 39-yard field goal by Wil Lutz and a missed point-after attempt by Justin Tucker, and the Saints remained atop the NFC South Division standings.