Now, we know what it can look like.
The New Orleans Saints provided an example of the result that can be produced when the offense, defense and special team units collectively play a clean game, and the result was a convincing, 24-0 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday in the Caesars Superdome.
New Orleans (3-5) ended a two-game losing streak and handled the Raiders in every way possible.
OFFENSE: The Saints didn't quite reach the 31-point, 417-yard averages they'd posted in the previous four starts by Andy Dalton at quarterback. But 24 points and 367 yards were plenty for an offense that didn't commit a turnover, converted seven of 12 third-down attempts and made the most of running back Alvin Kamara, who scored his first three touchdowns of the season and totaled 158 scrimmage yards on 27 touches. The Saints ran for 138 yards on 32 carries, and there were very few chunk plays among the 32 carries. Mostly, it was a methodical, punishing assault that the Raiders couldn't stop. The passing game took what was given, and Dalton (22 of 30 for 229 yards and two touchdowns) continued to show that he can operate the offense smoothly.
DEFENSE: The defense played like a unit whose pride has been wounded, and wanted – and needed – to re-establish itself. It did so by completely slamming the door on Las Vegas, posting its first shutout since a 9-0 victory last season over Tampa Bay on Dec. 21, 2021. New Orleans took away the run (38 yards allowed on 13 carries) and pummeled Raiders starting quarterback Derek Carr, who completed 15 of 26 passes for 101 yards and was sacked four times for minus-28 yards. The Saints yielded 183 yards of offense, and it appeared to be less than that. But they also produced stops on nine of 14 third-down attempts and simply would not allow the Raiders to find an offensive rhythm, and Tyrann Mathieu intercepted his second pass of the season off a pass deflection by linebacker Pete Werner.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Nothing special happened. Nothing debilitating happened. Steady was plenty good enough for New Orleans, because all the Saints required was that the unit not give the Raiders any unearned field position or cheap points. Kicker Wil Lutz missed a 38-yard attempt, and his conversion rate this season (12 for 17) isn't what anyone expected. Probably not cause for major alarm, especially after a victory, but given that few NFL games are as lopsided as this one, New Orleans is going to need his efficiency to be at its peak when the time comes.