OFFENSE: You'd be hard-pressed to find a more efficient execution of a gameplan than the New Orleans Saints' on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Offensive balance? Check: 35 pass attempts (27 completions, 265 yards and a touchdown by Drew Brees) and 35 runs (for 123 yards). Third-down effectiveness? Check: 9 for 15, 60 percent. Ball control? Check: A time of possession advantage of 36:12 to 23:48, with the Saints running 72 offensive plays to Seattle's 54. All in all, and considering the opponent, it was about as close to doing exactly what they wanted to do on offense as the Saints have come this season in many, many ways. The sore thumbs were a lost fumble, returned 34 yards for a touchdown, and red zone efficiency (2 for 5); the Saints kicked a 22-yard field goal on fourth-and-1 from the Seattle 4-yard line, and settled for a 21-yard field goal on a drive which they worked to a first-and-goal from the 1 situation. Those field goal possessions were ones that stuck out after the game, but when points were as precious as they were expected to be against Seattle – which entered the game allowing a league-low 14 points per game – then four field goals weren't exactly a bad thing. Big props to the offensive line, for which the starters were intact for the first time since the season opener (left tackle Terron Armsteadand left guard Andrus Peatwere back in the lineup together). And a huge shout-out to running back Tim Hightower. When Mark Ingramwas benched after losing a fumble for the second time in as many games – this one returned for a touchdown by Seattle safety Earl Thomas– Hightower stepped in and ran 26 times for 102 yards, many of the carries and yards falling into the "bruising" category.
DEFENSE: Defensively, the Saints allowed 13 points and by any measure, that's an outstanding job. True, Seattle entered the game scoring just 18.5 points per game, but the Saints were allowing 32.5 and regardless of opposition and numbers, the stops have to be made. The Seahawks totaled just 15 first downs and 74 rushing yards, 71 of them after halftime. The 296 passing yards allowed came with an asterisk; 43 came on a pass thrown by receiver Tanner McEvoyto running back C.J. Prosiseon a trick play, and Russell Wilsonwas under pressure for much of the day, and Saints linebacker Nate Stuparmade one of the best defensive plays of the season on his leaping interception of Wilson in the second quarter. Sunday's numbers are numbers that the Saints' defense will take in any game, against any opponent, and very much like the team's chance of winning. Safety Jairus Byrdled the defense with 10 tackles, and defensive end Paul Krugerposted the lone sack, but many hands contributed to this one for the Saints.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Wil Lutzhad the most productive day of his rookie season, kicking four field goals (from 22, 53, 21 and 41 yards) in the five-point victory. Lutz now is 11 for 15 on field goals this season, and three of his four misses are from 50-plus yards. That's more than solid. Also, we can toss in that he made a special teams tackle Sunday, bringing down Seattle returner Tyler Lockettafter a 37-yard return in the second quarter. Punter Thomas Morstead, was, well, Thomas Morstead: two punts for a 46-yard gross average and 39-yard net, and Locket was held to a 7-yard average on two punt returns. But the Saints' own return game remains troublesome at times. Travaris Cadetand Tommylee Lewisgot mixed up and muffed a kickoff that Cadet simply covered for no yards, and the memory flashed of the mix-up against Atlanta that resulted in a lost fumble. It wouldn't be a shock if Marcus Murphygets another crack at returning kicks for the Saints, though Lewis probably provides more home-run speed even than the speedy Murphy.