Game Balls: Saints at Buccaneers (Week 11)

BtBoylan

Following a 34-17 victory on the road against Tampa Bay, here are the Saints that won "Game Balls" from Brendan "The Butler" Boylan.

Michael Thomas: 

Nov 17, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) is tackled by Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Andrew Adams (39) in the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 17, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) is tackled by Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Andrew Adams (39) in the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas continues to find himself in the conversation of best season ever by an NFL wide receiver, and this praise coming only 11 weeks into the season.  Last week, Thomas became the fastest player ever claiming 400 receptions; this week Thomas has the most receptions by any player through the first 10 games of a season with 94 receptions. Continuing to be the go-to target offensively Thomas’ game, while not entirely flashy, has continued to evolve making him that much more difficult to defend against.  The returns of a healthy Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook will only help Thomas and the Saints offense. Whether defenses show less attention towards Thomas or more towards Kamara and Cook, the Saints offense is getting healthy and hot at the right time.

NOTE: Michael Thomas’ 8 receptions and 114 yards yesterday vs. Tampa Bay keeps him on pace to break Marvin Harrison’s single season record of receptions (143) and to receive for over 1,750 yards this season.

Alvin Kamara:

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Nov 17, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) runs the ball against Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Mike Edwards (34) during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After missing a few weeks of action because of an ankle/knee injury, Kamara returned to action last week vs. Atlanta and never seemed to find his form.  With only 12 touches for Kamara last week, he bounced back this week with 26 total touches (13 carries/ 10 receptions/3 punt returns) accounting for 154 all-purpose yards. 

With Kamara being back to 100%, Saints fans should expect more ripples in the offense and creativity by Sean Payton.  Whether it be a “21” look with Kamara and Murray in the backfield with Taysom Hill at tight-end or more offensive looks with Kamara in motion pre-snap, it opens up the playbook for Payton to get one of his best playmakers the ball in space and plenty of room to run.

Kiko Alonso: 

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Sep 9, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints middle linebackers Alex Anzalone (47) and Kiko Alonso (54) walk off the field after their game against the Houston Texans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest knocks on Alonso in his NFL career has been that he is not very quick or athletic.  While the assessment may be fair his play this past week vs the Bucs shows why he is one of the most underrated linebackers in the league.  Alonso lead the Saints with 6 tackles yesterday, all solo tackles, and while that number may not be eye popping it is what Alonso did to make the plays that are.

His ability to read screens gave Alonso his lone tackle for loss against Tampa, recognizing the movement of the left side of the offensive line, beating them to the point of attack and making a big tackle for a loss of two yards.  Later in the game, Alonso showed his football IQ again on a similar play to the opposite side, except this time he was a part of a zone blitz.  Recognizing the screen coming, Alonso peeled off of the blitz and tracked the running back, making what would have been a first-down play a gain of six yards. 

Then how could we forget his pass break-up leading to Vonn Bell’s first NFL interception? Overall Kiko’s best game as a Saint.

The O-Line:

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Nov 17, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook (87) is congratulated by quarterback Drew Brees (9) after scoring a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Hogs were the biggest issue for the Saints last week right next to the self-inflicted wounds that penalties caused, giving up 6 sacks to a struggling Falcons defensive front. After seeing Brees go down a career high 6 times and losing left guard Andrus Peat to a broken arm, there were many concerns swirling the offensive line going into Tampa Bay. 

However, the Pro-Bowl offensive line of the New Orleans Saints were just that against their division rivals only surrendering one sack and giving Brees plenty of time in the pocket to pick his target.  While Armstead and Ramczyk showed their Pro-Bowl ability yet again, Nick Easton who replaced Peat at left guard stood tall himself.  Easton who had not been active over the past five weeks filled in nicely for the Saints on the interior and did not allow a sack.  The lone sack of the game came off of a corner blitz and was not credited against the offensive line.

The Saints advance to 8-2 on the season and hold a 3-game lead for first place in the NFC South.  Next up for New Orleans are the Carolina Panthers (5-5) in a divisional matchup inside of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday, November 24th at 12 PM CST. 

Follow Brendan "The Butler" Boylan on Twitter @btboylan

Follow Saints News on Twitter @saintsnews

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