Jacksonville, Fla. – Beauty isn't a necessity when you can unleash beasts.
And on Sunday, against Jacksonville in a 13-6 victory at TIAA Bank Field, the New Orleans Saints defense was beastly, leading the team to its fourth consecutive victory.
True, special teams was more than efficient and the offense was able to chip in when it needed to, with an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to provide the winning margin. But the Saints (5-1) have been special defensively for three consecutive weeks, holding Dallas, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville to an average of 245 yards per game.
The NFC South Division leaders keep finding ways to win.
OFFENSE: The Saints were spotty, to be kind. They totaled 326 yards, were 1 of 3 in the red zone and converted just 5 of 13 times on third down. Those numbers aren't grand, by any measure. But there was an impressive 11-play, 75-yard drive that lasted 6:22 and it was the kind of drive that winning teams produce when they have to have it. Too, New Orleans never abandoned the run, with 104 yards on 26 carries. There are areas that need cleaning, and they'll have to be more efficient, obviously. But that one drive keeps alive the hope; we saw the production there and against Tampa Bay, now it has to be consistently conjured.
DEFENSE: It's one thing to have a plan; it's totally another to execute it as well as the Saints have the last three games, in which they've allowed 10 points to Dallas, 24 to Tampa Bay and six to Jacksonville. They held the Jaguars to 226 yards, 75 rushing, and came up with play after play after play. Two sacks, seven passes defensed and an interception (by cornerback Marshon Lattimore) were just the highlights. The every-down grunt work is what was to be appreciated, how the Saints kept rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew from escaping the pocket and extending plays. This one, in terms of numbers, will be hard to duplicate in terms of sheer domination.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Speaking of effectiveness and efficiency: Thomas Morstead had five of his six punts downed inside the 20; Wil Lutz made both of his field-goal attempts; Justin Hardee made a tackle for no gain on Jacksonville's lone punt return; and Deonte Harris kept the ball safe and secure (he appeared to lose one punt in the sun, and no ill came of it). All in all, it can't be understated how important it was to have a clean game in special teams, because the game was so close.