Jacksonville, Fla. – Whatever it takes to win, is what the New Orleans Saints are willing to do. They proved as much again on Sunday at TIAA Bank Field, with a 13-6 victory over Jacksonville.
The Saints (5-1) are in enough of a groove that they've won four straight without Drew Brees, and remain atop the NFC South Division standings simply because they won't cede the high ground.
But, too, they've got enough quality players and performances to ensure, so far, that no one has been able to push them off the hill.
OFFENSE: It wasn't a pretty performance. Only one touchdown, 1 of 3 in the red zone, and 326 yards are not "Saints" standards. But even in a slugfest of a game, Michael Thomas is the man for the job. Eight catches for 89 yards, on a day when the offense was out of sync, is indicative of the type of player Thomas is. Still, we're going to politely ask him to share the honors this week with Jared Cook, because of two very clutch plays. The 6-foot-5 tight end needed all of his range to come down with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Teddy Bridgewater in the back of the end zone, and the 20-yarder he caught from Bridgewater on third-and-1 in the fourth quarter essentially gave the Saints the first down that sealed the deal. Cook hasn't given the Saints seven-catch production yet, but he has touchdowns in consecutive games and his presence is being felt.
DEFENSE: Again, I'm going for the combo package. Up front, defensive end Cameron Jordan had a two-piece, as he likes to call it: two sacks of Jacksonville quarterback Gardner Minshew. They were New Orleans' only sacks, Nos. 4 and 5 of the season for Jordan, and they were Exhibits 1,000 and 1,001 that his motor doesn't really cease. Sooner or later, he'll get the best of an offensive tackle. The second half of the combo is cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who has had a three-game stretch that may be unrivaled by any cornerback this season. Lattimore helped shut down Dallas' Amari Cooper, then Tampa Bay's Mike Evans, and on Sunday, Jacksonville's D.J. Chark. Lattimore had an interception and three pass breakups and he might be playing the best he has in his three-year career.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Thomas Morstead was NFC Special Teams Player of the Month in September, and his October hasn't been bad, either. Sunday, he punted six times; five of them were downed inside the 20, and he averaged 41.8 yards net. Sometimes, it's not the distance so much as the placement and Morstead appears to be in a groove. He pretty much doesn't give an opponent anything to work with if he wants to return a punt, and that's an extremely valuable trait to possess.