October 4, 2009

Sharper, Saints D bring down Jets, 24-10

  • The Saints defense won this game.
  • The defense won the game with 14 points in the second quarter in the span of less than six minutes.
  • FS Darren Sharper, now one of the best free agent acquisitions of the 2009 offseason, slammed the door shut on a promising Jets drive by intercepting Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez near the goal line and racing down his right sideline. Sanchez showed a lack of class by diving at Saints MLB Jonathan Vilma's knees during the return. Vilma is ok, and the refs nailed Sanchez for a 15-yard penalty.
  • The Jets punted on their ensuing drive, and then Saints drove 65 yards to the Jets goal line. But the Saints offensive couldn't cash in first and goal at the one, a disappointing specter of 2008, when Pierre Thomas and Heath Evans were each denied, and then Brees fired incomplete on two scrambles. Setting up shop in the shadow of their own goal line, the Jets' rookie quarterback rolled right and waited far too long. Strong-running Will Smith smashed into him from behind and DT Remi Ayodele and LB Jonathan Vilma were there to pounce on it in the end zone.
  • Both Smith and DE Charles Grant collected two sacks on the day, another huge day from a pair of defensive ends that endured criticism and endless talk of the Starcaps suspension ligitation through this offseason. Through four games, the pair has combined for seven sacks, two passes defensed, a forced fumble and an interception. A big breath of life into an important, expensive position for the Saints.
  • What can you say about Sharper? Clearly, the Saints are making use of his veteran talents and hiding any limitations he may have at 34 years old. Sharper made some very big plays today, also including a big-time tackle on agile RB Leon Washington in the flat to stop him short of converting a third and three. Has any defensive free agent addition made a bigger impact on his team this year? His fourth quarter interception, his second of the day and fifth of the year, nailed this game shut on the drive following Pierre Thomas' touchdown.
  • Sharper (10) is now second only to Hall of Famer Rod Woodson (12) in career interception returns for touchdowns. Sharper and future Hall of Famer Deion Sanders are the only players with more than one 90+ yard interception returns for touchdowns.
  • CB Randall Gay collected the third Saint interception of the day to kill the final Jets drive, and two Drew Brees kneeldowns ended the game.
  • The Saints defense limited Sanchez, who had played well despite some turnovers, to only 138 yards passing with the three picks. The Jets did more of their damage on the ground, with three different runningbacks, some wildcat plays involving WR Brad Smith and Sanchez himself combining for 132 yards rushing on the ground, averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
  • The Saints defense played even better in the second half, often employing eight men up on the line of scrimmage and then dropping or blitzing any number of them from play to play. The Jets managed no drive longer than five plays in the second half, though that doesn't count a four-play drive set up by a Reggie Bush fumble.
  • The Saints won the turnover battle 4-1 today. Bush's fumble on the second possession of the second half set the Jets up on the Saint 34 and that turned into a Thomas Jones touchdown run, bringing the game to 17-10.
  • Drew Brees' statistics weren't pretty: 20/32 for 190 yards. His accuracy was un-Brees like on the day. For example, on third and eight at his own 6, Brees rolled right made a running throw that one-hopped its way to an open Devery Henderson at the marker. In the second quarter at mid field, Brees fired behind Robert Meachem on a deep post. And while the Jets defense is good, probably one of the best the Saints will face this season, Brees worked the clock and protected the ball to keep the Saints defense off the field.
  • At times, the Saints blasted the Jets on the ground with Pierre Thomas, but at other times forgot completely about running the ball. Thomas again had a huge second half, with 81 of his 86 rushing yards in the second half and also led the team in receiving with 4 catches for 46 yards, including a 36-yard screen pass gain.
  • Reggie Bush had six carries for 37 yards, including a 12-yard gain on a field-reversing run spring by Brees himself, who stayed in the play to pick up a key block. He continues to be used as a backup behind Thomas. He gave way to Lance Moore on some punt returns as well.
  • Brees made lots of plays today that weren't on the stat sheet. The hustle to recovery a Pierre Thomas fumble back to the line of scrimmage, staying in the play to spring Reggie Bush for a first down run, drawing the Jets offsides on fourth and inches, scrambling for a first down, and not taking a single sack when the Jets put on heavy pressure.
  • Special teams were not a disappointment for the Saints today, with rookie Thomas Morstead performing excellently on punts and kickoffs. All five of his kickoffs went into the end zone, one was returned but didn't get out past the 15. His five punts ok, going 43 yards, 38, 41, 36 (downed at the 10), 32 (downed at the 19). All were very high, allowing no returns.
  • The Saints tight ends did very well today, being used as blockers to help out third-string but capable left tackle Zach Strief and as receivers. Jeremy Shockey and David Thomas combined for five catches for 52 yards. Shockey had a 20-yard catch on 1st and 20 and Thomas had an 18-yard catch on 3rd and 6. Thomas' catch kept the Saints' final scoring drive alive, it ended with Pierre Thomas plunging in from a yard out after an 11 play, 6:49 drive that covered 74 yards.

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