Saints Ground Game Helps Trot Over Broncos

The Saints did not disappoint in their road game against the Broncos, cruising to victory with a dominant ground game.
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DENVER -- The New Orleans Saints improved to 9-2 on the season after a dominant road win over the Denver Broncos in Week 12. It was a game that had a bit of controversy leading up to it with the Broncos losing all three of their quarterbacks and having to turn to a practice squad wide receiver who had experience at Wake Forest. Regardless, Sean Payton's offense was dominant on the ground, which helped fuel a win for New Orleans. 

Game Recap

New Orleans won the coin toss and elected to defer, putting the Broncos offense out on the field with Kendall Hinton. However, it was Phillip Lindsay who took the first several direct snaps for Denver. Royce Freeman took the other, and Hinton finally entered the game on a short yardage 3rd down situation, but didn't connect.

The Saints got their first opportunity with the ball and ended up going backwards in five plays, which saw a delay of game penalty and sack on Taysom Hill to force a Thomas Morstead punt. Denver and New Orleans ended up trading three-and-outs, with the Broncos having another before the Saints got something moving offensively.

It wasn't the prettiest way, but New Orleans started getting things going, gambling on a 4th-and-1 inside their own territory that saw the Broncos jump and give the Saints a fresh set of downs. Latavius Murray and Alvin Kamara would then put in good back-to-back runs to close out the first quarter. They wouldn't disappoint, as they closed out their 13-play, 74-yard drive with a Taysom Hill keeper for the score with Ryan Ramczyk out in front. The drive took eight minutes off the clock, as New Orleans took a 7-0 lead.

Denver followed that up with another three-and-out, and New Orleans didn't fare much better, going five plays and having to punt. It was just that type of flow for the game to start. The Broncos had their fourth straight three-and out on their ensuing possession, and New Orleans was eager to return the favor. 

Finally, the gridlock was broken after a low snap to Phillip Lindsay was scooped up by Kwon Alexander and returned for 21 yards to set the Saints up at the Denver 13-yard line. Malcolm Jenkins made a great play on Lindsay to prevent him from recovering the football. Taysom Hill would punch it in on a 1st-and-Goal from the 1-yard line after New Orleans got a big third down conversion on an Adam Trautman screen play. The drive took 1:19, as the Saints went 13 yards in 5 plays to take a 14-0 lead with 1:03 left in the half.

It took the Saints two plays to get the ball back, as Hinton was picked off by Janoris Jenkins. He got hurt at the end of the play, as his leg bent awkwardly. He ended up heading to the locker room early, walking gingerly under his own power with trainers. New Orleans would add a 40-yard Wil Lutz as a result, as they took at 17-0 lead into halftime.

New Orleans had a quick three-and-out with their first possession of the third quarter, but made up for it defensively as Denver started to piece together some semblance of a drive. Hinton's pass was picked off by C.J. Gardner-Johnson, as the Saints defense got their third turnover of the day. It was short-lived, as Taysom Hill was intercepted just several plays later by Essang Bassey after a pass tipped up in the air intended for Michael Thomas.

The Broncos got their first points of the day, despite not being able to convert a first down on their series, as Brandon McManus connected from 58 yards to put it 17-3 Saints with 6:56 left in the third quarter. It didn't last long, as New Orleans put together a scoring drive that resulted in Latavius Murray going 36 yards for a Saints touchdown. Their offense went on an 8-play, 82-yard drive in 4:42 to extend their lead to 24-3.

The Saints defense forced another punt after the Broncos were able to at least get a first down on their drive. They proceeded to put together another long scoring drive, going 77 yards in 11 plays that churned 6:54 off the clock. A big 20-yard pass play to Michael Thomas and 16-yard pass hookup to Tre'Quan Smith helped, as the Saints kept the ball moving in the right direction. Latavius Murray ended up getting his second touchdown of the day, this time from 7 yards out to increase the lead to 31-3. Murray went over 100 yards rushing on the day, and was clearly the team's best player on offense.

The Saints shut the doors on the Broncos offense again with a ton of reserves and subs in the game, as they got the ball back and put Jameis Winston in late. It didn't matter much, because this game was decided long before we got to this point.

New Orleans has a date in Atlanta to take on the Falcons in a NFC South rematch, as the Saints look to keep a hold on their division and conference lead.