The New Orleans Saints won their eighth consecutive game on Sunday in a methodical 31-3 rout of the Denver Broncos. It was their first win over the Broncos since 1994, and just their second win in Denver ever. It was also a game that set NFL quarterback play back 50 years. New Orleans QB Taysom Hill had an ugly performance, completing 9 of 16 passes for just 78 yards. He threw an interception, was responsible for two delay of game penalties, took two foolish sacks, and repeatedly missed open receivers.
Denver's play at the position was even worse. None of the Broncos' four quarterbacks were eligible to play because of COVID-19 protocols, forcing them to use practice squad, WR Kendall Hinton, for most of the snaps at quarterback. Denver ran several plays from the Wildcat formation, which spelled disaster against a New Orleans defense that ranked second in the league against the run.
The Saints defense dominated a limited Broncos offense, holding them to only 112 total yards, six 1st downs, and 1 of 10 on 3rd down attempts. New Orleans held Hinton to just 1 of 9 passing for 13 yards, sacking him once and intercepting him twice. Offensively, the Saints didn't do much, picking up just 292 total yards. However, they turned two Denver turnovers into ten points for a big halftime lead, controlled the ball on the ground, and converted 4 of 7 third-down chances in the second half.
Here were some of the best performances from this ugly but important win for the Saints.
SAINTS OFFENSIVE LINE
New Orleans went into the game without either of their starters on the left side of their offensive line. Tackle Terron Armstead was diagnosed with a positive COVID test on Friday, while guard Andrus Peat sat out with a concussion. The Broncos sacked Hill three times, but two were because he held onto the ball too long and another was on a scramble. Otherwise, New Orleans controlled the line of scrimmage and won this game with an old-school type of offense.
The Saints rushed 44 times for 229 yards and 4 touchdowns, their highest output of the year. Most of their success came over the right side, where RG Cesar Ruiz and RT Ryan Ramczyk got a great push into the second level of the Denver defense. Center Erik McCoy opened up cutback lanes for Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray when the initial hole wasn't there on either side. Nick Easton had an outstanding game at left guard, opening up running room on his side and pulling to the right to create extra yardage. Despite an ineffective passing game, the line wore down the Broncos defense and dictated the flow of the game.
LATAVIUS MURRAY, RUNNING BACK
Murray was the most consistent offensive player for the Saints on Sunday. He rushed for a season-high 124 yards on 19 carries and scored two touchdowns. The biggest production came in the second half when he picked up 83 yards on ten carries. Murray finished the Broncos off with a 36-Yd touchdown sprint in the third quarter to give the Saints a three-touchdown lead. His 7-Yd scoring run early in the fourth quarter put a bow on the bruising New Orleans victory.
Murray was part of a three-headed battering ram that includes Alvin Kamara (54 rushing yards) and Taysom Hill (44 yards, 2 touchdowns) that wore down a feisty Denver defense. He received his heaviest workload of the year, responding with the Saints' best rushing performance of 2020.
CAMERON JORDAN, DEFENSIVE END
The Saints got another outstanding performance from their defensive line, assaulting the Denver backfield and altering the path of their running backs. This style of game was tailor-made for DT Malcom Brown, who repeatedly stuffed Bronco runners at the line of scrimmage. Defensive end Marcus Davenport had a terrific outing also, tracking down ball carriers along the line.
Defensive end Cam Jordan continued his All-Pro level of play over the last several weeks. He had the team's only sack of the game and recorded two tackles for loss, along with several key stops of running backs at the line of scrimmage. Jordan set the tone for the game when he chased Hinton down and hurried him into an incompletion on his first career pass attempt. He recorded 4 QB hits on the afternoon and is again playing at his accustomed level of one of the league's best defensive linemen.
DEMARIO DAVIS, LINEBACKER
We came into this game knowing that if the Saints were going to have success defensively, they would need an active and disciplined game from their linebacking corps. Kwon Alexander recovered a fumble to set up the second score of the day for New Orleans. Alexander, Alex Anzalone, and safeties Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Malcolm Jenkins were factors along the line of scrimmage the entire afternoon.
The biggest playmaker for the Saints in this game was once again All-Pro linebacker Demario Davis. He led all players with 9 tackles, seven of which were solo stops. Davis diagnosed plays like he wrote the Broncos playbook and was seemingly in every gap, whether it was a power run or misdirection play. Even when he wasn't in on a tackle, he altered the path of a ball carrier to a waiting teammate.
Demario Davis is the linchpin of a New Orleans defense that has allowed just one touchdown over the last 16 quarters of action. The Saints have allowed an average of just 7 points and 208 yards per game over their last four contests while forcing 12 turnovers. On a day when they were missing their Hall of Fame quarterback, two Pro Bowl starters on their offensive line, their All-Pro kick returner, New Orleans still rolled on with what could be the NFL's best defensive team.