The New Orleans Saints are intent on purposefully running through the rest of the 2022 regular season and into whatever it is that lies ahead for them after that.
On Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, the Eagles were in the path and for Philadelphia (13-3), it proved to not be a great place. The Saints (7-9) won their third consecutive game, and second straight on the road, with a thorough 20-10 victory against the team that entered the game with the league's best record.
It was the fifth straight game that the Saints have allowed 18 points or less, as New Orleans has honed in on what works for it down the stretch.
OFFENSE: Promising start for the offense Sunday, courtesy of one of the best opening drives that possibly could be scripted – a 15-play, 75-yard drive that lasted 8:58, and featured three third-down conversions and a fourth-down conversion. And at the end, when the Saints absolutely needed it, they lined up Taysom Hill at quarterback and dared the Eagles to stop the power run, which they couldn't. But it was choppy in the middle, partly attributable to attrition (the Saints entered the game without both starting guards, and lost starting right tackle Ryan Ramczyk during the game), and New Orleans simply wasn't able to hold the Eagles' pass rush at bay (seven sacks allowed). Quarterback Andy Dalton probably should have avoided a couple of the six sacks he absorbed, and he definitely wasn't at his best on his first-half interception that kept the Saints from increasing their 13-0 lead. But New Orleans ran for 130 yards and a touchdown on 35 carries, converted 7 of 16 third downs and dominated time of possession (37:04-22:56). Not perfect, but certainly a decent amount to be pleased with.
DEFENSE: The Saints played a near-perfect first half on defense, not allowing Philadelphia a first down until 11 seconds remained in the half. True, Gardner Minshew was at quarterback and not MVP candidate Jalen Hurts, but Minshew led the offense to 27 points and around 400 yards of offense in the previous game, against Dallas. New Orleans, however, gave the Eagles fits and by the time Philadelphia found its footing and a little momentum in the third quarter, the Saints were able to shut it down. The Eagles hit the Saints with a chunk play – a 78-yard touchdown pass from Minshew to A.J. Brown – but that accounted for 25 percent of Philly's 313 yards. New Orleans pretty much smothered the run (15 carries for 67 yards by the Eagles) and it harassed Minshew into distraction. The Saints recorded six sacks, including three by defensive end Cameron Jordan, which allowed him to raise his career total to 115.5 – an all-time franchise record – and cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who hadn't played since Oct. 9, returned an interception 12 yards for a touchdown with 5:27 remaining to seal the victory. Easily, one of New Orleans' best performances this season.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Wil Lutz smashed a 54-yard field goal through the uprights in the second quarter, a major development in a points-at-a-premium game, and added a 20-yarder that gave New Orleans a 13-0 lead. Another standout day from punter Blake Gillikin – five of his six punts were downed inside the 20, which kept Philadelphia in position of having to travel the long road. The cover teams always deserve props, but especially for having a hand in downing the punts inside the 20 (J.T. Gray prevented one punt from getting into the end zone, and tapped it out where it was downed inside the 5).