1. Foot Placement: This was a big part of various places through the course of the game. Good foot placement helped keep a few Dallas drives going, it allowed for Dallas's first offensive touchdown, and the defense's first pick of the game. All of these plays came along the sideline and ultimately required the placement to be perfect in order to allow for the catches to be made and to count. In this, Gallup and Kearse did a lot of good just knowing where to put their feet.
2. Turnovers: While the defense struggled to deal with Taysom Hill running the ball and surrendered a fair number of big plays in the passing game, they DID manage to come up with a few big plays of their own. Kearse started off the night with his side-line catch, and ultimately as things progressed in the second half and the Dallas lead started to grow following the Pollard TD run, these turnovers came in bunches and kept the Saints from scoring and Carlos Watkins even scored a touchdown on his interception. And on that play... he had great hands.
3. Pollard: He was really the best of our running game and ultimately his 58-yard TD run was the deciding score.
4. Anthony Brown: After getting picked apart last week... he had a bounce-back week this week, breaking up passes and making sure tackles. That was big for this game where the defense did a lot to win.
5. Parsons, Kearse, and D-Law: The rookie linebacker continues to perform well and with Kearse and Lawrence was there for a good many of the defense's biggest plays. Kearse was able to run some guys down for tackles for loss in the running game. Lawrence was able to get some pressures and even deflected one pass that Hill threw. And coming back to Parsons... his biggest play of the night was probably the sack of Hill that forced them to punt in the 3rd quarter.
6. Pass Blocking: The line had its issues in the run game, but it generally did give Dak time to throw the ball.
7. Focus: This has been something that's been lacking in many games. No focus leading to penalties of various kinds, often false starts and off-sides penalties. And in theory, going INTO New Orleans that had the potential to be trouble as the Superdome can be loud and a very tough place for a visiting team to play. And today, that didn't really happen. There were some penalties, sure, but none that would indicate that the team was bothered by the crowd noise, which was there until about the 4th quarter. That's a good thing.
1. The Running Game: Pollard's TD run may have decided the game, but the Saints really controlled this aspect of the game all night long. Take that 58-yard TD run away and one backward pass to Lamb away, and our ground game was pretty much non-existent.
2. The Offense Outside of the Scoring Drives: Dallas had some good drives on the day, but they were limited to 4 drives. In contrast to that we had 6 drives in which we went 3 and out on, one where we gained some yards but turned the ball over on downs after 6 plays, an INT on the 3rd play of a drive, and one drive that showed promise and then fizzled out around midfield. In this, the offense, outside of those 4 scoring drives really didn't do much. The biggest issue was that some of these drives, particularly in the second half were shorter than they needed to be because we were passing the ball as much as we were. Granted, the Saints had largely stopped the running game... BUT by going 3 and out on three straight passing plays would leave the offense one dimensional would take little time off the clock, which by the second half we really could have used to our advantage.
3. Defending Against Big Plays: While the defense was generally pretty good today... they still fell victim to a few big plays, many of which gave the Saints chances to score and late in the game DID allow a score. Thankfully though, these were reasonably limited through the game and on the drives that had INTs had the defense offset these issues.
4. Defending Taysom Hill Running the Ball: This was probably the most consistent problem the defense had through the game. While they largely controlled Ingram, Montgomery, and Harris fairly well in the ground game, Taysom Hill ran a lot and ran all over the defense. He had 11 carries, averaged over 9 yards a carry, and particularly in the second half, it looked like the Saints would be able to come back just by running that play over and over, as we weren't stopping it.
The Dak: His night wasn't horrible... but neither was it truly good. In many ways it was very up and down with good and bad moments. The good moments came on the scoring drives that we had and saw him effectively attack the Saints secondary and make some nice passes to Lamb, Cooper, and Gallup, including the touchdown pass in the first quarter. However, the bad moments came on many of the other drives where he was often behind his receivers, and that included the fourth down pass to Lamb that went incomplete or was forcing balls into bad spots. In fact, his INT came as a result of one of those sorts of plays and he can be thankful that the Saints didn't get a second INT on a very similar play. In this... his night wasn't horrible, but it could have been a LOT better, and thankfully the defense came in strong in this game.