London – The New Orleans Saints get to savor Sunday's 20-0 victory over Miami because of the bye week, and there's much to savor from what they did at Wembley Stadium in London. The defense hadn't shut out an opponent since Dec. 16, 2012 (a 41-0 win over Tampa Bay) and it allowed less than 200 yards for the first time since Nov. 10, 2003, against Dallas. And the offense, while not pouring in points and yards video-game style, has been efficient and effective. To say Sunday was a good day is an understatement, and to say it lacked standouts would be a gargantuan stretch of truth.
OFFENSE: Receiver Michael Thomas (eight catches for 89 yards and a touchdown) and rookie running back Alvin Kamara (10 catches for 71 yards and a touchdown, and five carries for 25 yards) were outstanding. Drew Brees remains age-defying and surgically precise (29 for 41 for 268 yards and two touchdowns) as he leads an offense that has not committed a turnover in the first four games. But you have to appreciate the work submitted by rookie tackle Ryan Ramczyk. We've seen him start at left tackle because of Terron Armstead's injury, and we've seen him start at right tackle because of Zach Strief's injury. And on Sunday, we saw him start at left tackle (Armstead remains out) and finish the game at right tackle (Strief was injured during the game). A lot of fans lamented the trade of Brandin Cooks for New England's first-round pick, No. 32 overall. It says here that Ramczyk has made the deal worth it. He's a rookie and he has been unfazed.
DEFENSE: When you shut out an NFL team, everybody eats. So the entire defense fits into this category today, for posting the Saints' first shutout since 2012. Ken Crawley had an end-zone interception on Miami's opening drive, A.J. Klein, Rafael Bush, Cam Jordan and David Onyemata had sacks and the Saints held Miami to 186 yards of offense and 1 of 8 on third-down attempts. In the third quarter, the defense limited Miami to two three-and-out drives. Give credit to the players for not sulking after the first two games, in which they surrendered 65 points and 1,025 yards. In consecutive games, they've allowed 288 and 186 yards and 13 total points. And give credit to defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and his staff, for putting together a plan in both games that played to the strengths of their players. We won't say that the Saints have turned a corner defensively, and they'll be challenged in their first game off the bye, but it appears that they have an idea where the corner is located.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Saints didn't allow any returns of significance (Justin Hardee made a fantastic, one-on-one tackle of Jarvis Landry for no gain to complete Thomas Morstead's 58-yard punt). But we'll give this one today to kicker Wil Lutz, who bounced back from a missed field goal to make a couple. You'd like to see the perfection he displayed in the first six kicks, when he didn't miss, and he's going to be needed for a few clutch ones down the line, of course. But other than a 23-yard kickoff return by Alvin Kamara, he was the Saint of note on special teams.