For whatever the New Orleans Saints may have lacked during their 16-15 victory over Tennessee on Sunday in the Caesars Superdome to open the season, they didn't lack standout performers at all. That includes on offense, which woke from its first-half slumber and produced all the plays it needed to in the second half of the victory.
OFFENSE: What a difference a half made for quarterback Derek Carr. First half: 13 of 20 for 142 yards and an interception, and sacked four times. Second half: 10 of 13 for 163 yards and a touchdown, with no sacks. And Carr made a couple of winning throws in the second half – a 19-yard touchdown pass to receiver Rashid Shaheed with 1:23 left in the third quarter to give the Saints a 16-9 lead, and a 41-yarder to Shaheed on third-and-6 from the Saints' 33, with New Orleans nursing a 16-15 lead and just 1:55 left on the clock when he took the snap. Carr was battered around pretty good (the Titans took a roughing-the-passer penalty when Titans linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair leveled him with a forearm in the neck/chin area), but he maintained his poise, took sacks instead of risky chances and made the throws that had to be made to close out the game.
DEFENSE: The Saints only requested of cornerback Marshon Lattimore that he throw a blanket over Titans receiver DeAndre Hopkins, a five-time All-Pro making his debut with Tennessee. In other words, the kind of assignment Lattimore lives for. Hopkins caught seven passes for 65 yards on 13 targets. Lattimore wasn't there to challenge every target, but he intercepted a pass intended for Hopkins, broke up four passes and added two tackles. And he maybe even rubbed off on his teammates; when Lattimore came to the sideline for a play and was replaced by Isaac Yiadom, the Titans recognized the switch, challenged Yiadom deep and watched Yiadom deflect the pass attempt back to safety Marcus Maye for an interception. It was a total team effort, but Lattimore was excellent all day.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Going with two guys here, because I can. Rookie kicker Blake Grupe opened his regular-season NFL career with three field goals (26, 33 and 52 yards) and a successful point-after, which proved to be the difference on the scoreboard. And linebacker Zack Baun, who has turned into a special team demon, got his hands on a punt attempt that wound up traveling 1 yard and set up New Orleans for a field goal in the second quarter.
Check out the game action from the New Orleans Saints game against the Tennessee Titans in Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season.