Sometimes, one stolen possession can make all the difference.
That might not have been the case Sunday for the New Orleans Saints, who improved to 5-1 with their fourth straight victory, a 13-6 win over Jacksonville at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. When Coach Sean Payton said that, postgame, he told the defense it wouldn't have allowed a touchdown if the game had lasted eight quarters, he wasn't blowing smoke.
It was that kind of defensive performance.
But a stolen possession sure didn't hurt the cause, and it especially was important in that it happened shortly after Jacksonville produced one of its longest plays.
With the score tied at 3 entering the third quarter, the Jaguars opened with the first possession of the half and came out firing. On first-and-10 from the 25, quarterback Gardner Minshew connected with receiver Dede Westbrook on a 20-yard pass to reach the Jacksonville 45-yard line.
With the Jacksonville crowd hoping for more where that came from, the Saints stepped up with a tackle for no gain by defensive tackle David Onyemata against running back Leonard Fournette, then a forced incompletion by Minshew on second-and-10.
On third down, the defense executed its theft.
Minshew dropped back to pass, scanned the field and looked for receiver D.J. Chark over the middle. Chark's problem Sunday was that he was a primary focus of Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore. And Lattimore has been in a cornerback zone the last three games.
Chark appeared to cut his route short, perhaps because Lattimore beat him to the spot. Minshew threw to where Chark possibly was supposed to be, but couldn't get there because Lattimore was occupying the space.
The result: A pass into Lattimore's hands – his first interception of the season – to end Jacksonville's drive and give the Saints possession at their 40-yard line.
The interception helped set up the Saints' next drive, with the offense moving to the Jacksonville 3 before the march bogged down. Wil Lutz's 21-yard field goal gave New Orleans a 6-3 lead, the payoff of having an extra possession.