In a something-has-to-give matchup, one of the league’s most prolific offenses (New Orleans) faces one of its stingiest defenses (Washington) on Monday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Saints (3-1) average 34.3 points and 418.3 yards, and have scored at least 33 points in three of their four games. Washington (2-1) allows 14.7 points and 278 yards, and two of its three opponents have been held to 17 points or less.
Also to Washington’s benefit, the offense has been fairly mistake-free (three turnovers) and efficient (137.7 rushing yards per game on 33 attempts, and 33:31 time of possession), which has made Washington a handful.
“They’re not giving up the big play, they’ve limited the explosives,” Saints Coach Sean Payton said Thursday morning. “I think they’re playing the run awfully well. They’re affecting the passer. Their sub-rush is really good, and so you’re seeing quarterbacks under duress. Their numbers, both in the running game and the passing game, are real strong.
“And then, the thing we always talk about, the flip side is they’re playing a complementary game of football. This is a team that’s one of the top six, seven teams time of possession on offense. When you get the time of possession that they’re getting offensively and then you’re playing the way they are defensively relative to the run and pressuring the quarterback, and also eliminating the big plays, that formula works.”
FAMILIAR FACE: Washington quarterback Alex Smith has started five games against the Saints since 2006, Payton’s first season as head coach. The Saints have a pretty good idea of what they’ll see from him on Monday night. New Orleans is 3-2 in the previous five games, though Smith’s teams have been victorious in the last two – the 49ers’ playoff win in 2012, and Kansas City’s regular-season win in ’16.
In those two games, Smith combined to complete 41 of 66 passes for 513 yards and five touchdowns, with no interceptions, and he also ran for a 28-yard touchdown in the playoff game. In the three losses, Smith completed 59 of 103 passes for 636 yards and three touchdowns, with five interceptions. This season, he has completed 69 percent of his passes for 767 yards and four touchdowns, with one interception.
“He’s still operating extremely efficiently,” Payton said. “The one thing you see is his ability – it hasn’t changed at all – being able to move in the pocket, flushed to the pocket, make a play to the right, to the left. So not only in the pocket, but outside the pocket, he’s dangerous. Clearly, he’s got a command as to what they’re trying to do whether they’re in the gun or under center. I think he’s playing real well.”
ROLLING WITH KAMARA: Payton was asked specifically about the block rookie receiver Tre’Quan Smith provided on Alvin Kamara’s 49-yard touchdown run against the Giants, Kamara’s third of the game. He gave high marks to the third-round pick.
“When you see long touchdown runs, rarely is there not a receiver involved that makes it happen,” Payton said. “You have to find a way to block the support. And that’s a good safety that we’re talking about for the Giants. The play was blocked well inside and Tre put himself in a perfect position. You don’t have to kill this guy – in other words, you have to stay square on him and give the back a two-way go and it was textbook.”