The New Orleans Saints have been a Jekyll-and-Hyde team throughout the early parts of the 2021 season. They gave us a glimpse of both yesterday. The Saints went to Washington and battled their way to a 33-22 victory. The win improved their record to 3-2 as they head into a much-needed bye week.
New Orleans didn't make it easy on themselves. Two early Jameis Winston turnovers gift-wrapped ten points for Washington. The Saints continue to struggle at placekicker. Newly signed K Cody Parkey missed two extra points, keeping the home team within striking distance.
Washington's defensive line presented a difficult challenge for the Saints offensive line all afternoon. For the third consecutive week, New Orleans struggled to contain a mobile quarterback and was unable to pressure the passer consistently, leading to an alarming number of passing yardage.
The Saints persevered, and beat Washington with big plays despite a massive disadvantage in time of possession. New Orleans stiffened defensively every time Washington was in scoring position, gradually flipping field position as the game progressed.
Several Saints players had good performances. Rookie CB Paulson Adebo had a key interception at the goal-line to halt a Washington drive and provided standout coverage. Rookie LB Pete Werner led all tacklers with 13 stops, while LB Demario Davis had another dominant outing with a sack, 3 QB hits, and 8 tackles.
Offensively, the Saints had an explosive day despite losing Taysom Hill and WR Deonte Harris in the first half with injuries. Alvin Kamara had his most productive day of the year as a receiver and had 122 yards of total offense while scoring twice. WR Marquez Callaway had his best day as a pro, catching 4 passes for a game-high 85 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Here were the best performances from a big New Orleans road win.
BLAKE GILLIKIN, PUNTER
Thomas Morstead will never be forgotten, but Gillikin has more than capably replaced the franchise great. New Orleans thought highly enough of the former Penn State punter that they stashed him on injured reserve as a rookie in 2020. The results have paid great dividends so far.
Despite placekicking woes because of the injury absence of Wil Lutz, Gillikin has been a model of consistency for the special teams. He’s averaged 49.8 yards per punt this season and has also shown terrific directional ability.
Gillikin was at his best yesterday. He punted five times, averaging 53.6 yards per kick. Three of those punts pinned Washington inside their own 5-yard line and helped the Saints flip momentum with field position.
Morstead was a valuable weapon for the Saints over several years because of his ability to pin an opponent deep in their own territory and his booming leg to set up the New Orleans defense in better field position.
Blake Gillikin has picked off where Morstead left off and was a big key to the Saints victory yesterday afternoon.
JAMEIS WINSTON, QUARTERBACK
Winston came to New Orleans with the reputation of putting up big passing numbers but also with a penchant for turnovers. The Saints got both yesterday. He threw an interception on the first drive on and under thrown ball caused when G Andrus Peat stepped on Winston's foot. He also fumbled on a strip-sack by Washington DE Chase Young.
Winston bounced back from those turnovers in resounding fashion. A perfectly thrown deep strike to Deonte Harris resulted in a 72-yard first quarter touchdown to take the lead. It was the longest pass of Winston's career.
Winston hit another long touchdown at the end of the half, when Marquez Callaway positioned himself beautifully on a 49-yard Hail Mary score. He threw two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter, finding Callaway on a 12-yard strike then Kamara for a 19-yard score to ice the game.
Completing 15 of 30 attempts for 279 yards and 4 touchdowns, Winston's numbers would have been even better if not for some drops by his receivers. He also moved away from a fierce Washington pass rush effectively, even scrambling for crucial yardage.
Winston has been without All-Pro WR Michael Thomas for the entire year and without talented offensive linemen Terron Armstead and Erik McCoy for the last few games. He also lost Deonte Harris and Taysom Hill in the first half yesterday.
No Saints fans, Winston is not Drew Brees, but he has shown that he has the talent to effectively lead a short-handed offense.
MARSHON LATTIMORE, CORNERBACK
Lattimore faced a critical matchup against Washington star WR Terry McLaurin and was as dominant as you’ll see. McLaurin caught 4 passes on 11 targets for 46 yards. Only two of those receptions, on eight targets, came against Lattimore's coverage.
The entire New Orleans secondary made plays all afternoon, but Lattimore was the biggest defensive standout. He broke up a mind-blowing 6 passes and blanketed the talented McLaurin in the games most crucial moments.
Don't forget that this is a player less than a month removed from hand surgery. Lattimore has made three Pro Bowls in his four-year career, but might be in the midst of his best season. He’s given up less than 53% completion percentage when targeted and coming up big when the game is on the line.
Marshon Lattimore is an elite cornerback who is able to take an opponent's best receiver completely out of the game. His performance against McLaurin, one of the league's best wideouts, was the clinching factor in the Saints road win over Washington.
READ SAINTS-WASHINGTON COVERAGE
- Saints Report Card vs. Washington Football Team, Week 5
- Week 5 Saints Snap Counts and Observations
- Saints Respond With Hard-Fought Road Win Over The Football Team
- Saints Fantasy Football Start 'em or Sit 'em in Week 5
- Week 5: Saints Inactives List