DAL-NO Grades: Rookies spur defense in Saints win

The top takeaways from Sunday’s Dallas-New Orleans game, including the highest-graded players from each team.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

DAL-NO Grades: Rookies spur defense in Saints win


Here are the top takeaways from Sunday’s Dallas-New Orleans game, including the highest-graded players from each team:

New Orleans Saints

— This was a busy off-season of rebuilding for the Saints, and their top two draft picks on defense stood out with strong performances, particularly against the run last night. Hau’oli Kikaha (+3.1) and Stephone Anthony (+2.5) both earned the highest grades of their young NFL careers last night, and led the New Orleans’ defense with a combined 11 stops. Each of them added a sack, taking down Brandon Weeden (+0.1) after he was moved out of the pocket by other pressure.

— Sometimes as a quarterback, you have to take advantage of your good fortune in having bad plays nullified—that’s exactly what Drew Brees (+0.9) did last night. An interception, a dropped interception and another miss were all nullified by penalties last night, leaving Brees’ passing grade on non-nullified plays at +3.8. When the plays stood, Brees was on point; particularly on intermediate and deep throws, compiling a stat line of five-of-seven, 167 yards and the game-winning touchdown (+4.7 PFF passing grade) on passes aimed 10 or more yards in the air.

— Playing corner in the NFL is a tough gig, and the difficulties in terms of performance and perception were highlighted very well by the night Delvin Breaux (+1.1) had in coverage. Targeted nine times by Brandon Weeden, Breaux surrendered only two catches, but one of those was the game-tying touchdown at the end of regulation. Prior to that, Breaux stood up to a barrage of deep throws, winning more than he lost, cutting off routes and preventing the receiver from reaching the target point; but his eventual loss in coverage will be what sticks in the mind.

Top performers:

OLB Hau’oli Kikaha (+3.1)

WR Willie Snead (+3.1)

HB C.J. Spiller (+2.9)

LB Stephone Anthony (+2.5)

DT John Jenkins (+2.4)

 

Dallas Cowboys

— After signing a new deal on the eve of the season, DT Tyrone Crawford (+2.3) had been a little short of his best through three weeks. He made it right with a disruptive game last night. Crawford racked up half a dozen hurries against the Saints’ interior offensive line, and drew a hold from Saints’ center Max Unger (-1.1) late in the second quarter. His six pressures tied a career high, set in Tennessee in Week 2 of last season.

— The Cowboys knew they had to run a limited offense with Brandon Weeden (+0.1) to have a chance of winning this game, and their spot starter came up with a solid display, bouncing back from his worst moments with solid plays soon after. A potential interception to Delvin Breaux that Terrance Williams (+0.7) got a hand in to break up would have changed the narrative, but Weeden got redemption on the very next play for the game-tying score.

— You could only describe this as a vintage performance from the Dallas secondary in the sense that it sparked recollections of the bad old days of 2013. The Cowboys’ top five defensive backs by snaps accounted for eight of the defense’s 13 missed tackles, with the final nail in the coffin coming from Barry Church’s second missed tackle of the game on C.J. Spiller’s (+2.9) overtime game-winning score. Through the air, Dallas surrendered 236 of Drew Brees’ 359 passing yards after the catch.

Top performers:

DT Tyrone Crawford (+2.3)

DT David Irving (+2.0)

LB Andrew Gachkar (+1.9)

RT Doug Free (+1.6)

DE DeMarcus Lawrence (+1.2)

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

  • crosseyedlemon

    That the Saints with home field advantage could barely beat a team as banged up as Dallas has to be a major concern for fans in Bayou land. There have been times in the past when Brees could carry this team on his back but the possibilities of that happening this year are looking dimmer and dimmer.

    • One Angry Midget

      where exactly is Bayou Land? Do they have rides and attractions? Is NYC Angry Italian and Tall Building Land or LA, Fake Bewbs and No Substance Land?

      The defense is full of young talent that has improved every week. The team is slowly but surely getting healthy. Brees is playing banged up, and Spiller is getting healthy. This team is not very good, but as health improves and rookies get more experience, they could become a tough out.

      Throwing out statements without substance, and trivializing an area with “Bayou Land” (psst. New Orleans only has one bayou, and it’s in more of a grassy, recreational area, not much of a land) makes you look foolish.

      • Edward L Hatem Jr.

        Yeah…about looking foolish…you get that the Saints are a regional team encompassing most of the Northern Gulf of Mexico, right? There are a ton of Bayous in that area. Its not a slight. Its actually a moniker worn by a lot of LSU fans who also are loyal to the Saints. The Bayou Bengals. Etc. New Orleans may house the Saints, but its as regional a team as Green Bay is if not more.

        • Saintforever

          Nicely put!! I’m from the area with lots of bayous and I didn’t see any problems with that statement.

    • One Angry Midget

      where exactly is Bayou Land? Do they have rides and attractions? Is NYC Angry Italian and Tall Building Land or LA, Fake Bewbs and No Substance Land?

      The defense is full of young talent that has improved every week. The team is slowly but surely getting healthy. Brees is playing banged up, and Spiller is getting healthy. This team is not very good, but as health improves and rookies get more experience, they could become a tough out.

      Throwing out statements without substance, and trivializing an area with “Bayou Land” (psst. New Orleans only has one bayou, and it’s in more of a grassy, recreational area, not much of a land) makes you look foolish.

    • Bernard Cole Jr

      Even a banged up Dallas team was still going up against a team full of rookies & udfa’s. Saints lead league with rookie snaps on defense by almost 400 snaps. Pretty much the same on offense. 28 out of 53 either were not on team or not in nfl last year. So teams were pretty even when you look at it from that perspective. And with saints current team, its going to be awhile, if ever, before that home field advantage returns.

    • Bernard Cole Jr

      Even a banged up Dallas team was still going up against a team full of rookies & udfa’s. Saints lead league with rookie snaps on defense by almost 400 snaps. Pretty much the same on offense. 28 out of 53 either were not on team or not in nfl last year. So teams were pretty even when you look at it from that perspective. And with saints current team, its going to be awhile, if ever, before that home field advantage returns.

    • Cowboys804

      Dallas will return to claim the division, women better believe that.

  • Leon Sandcastle aka

    Hello Ben ,this O-line is not the same as last season, I’d like to read something about it and not again an article about Aaron Donald

  • Joe Doe

    I was quite impressed with the solo tackling by Dallas linebackers yesterday.

  • JGaLaXY

    ok should I make a move for randle using forsett/crabtree with dunbar probably out for the year? I need this answer fast lol

  • JGaLaXY

    ok should I make a move for randle using forsett/crabtree with dunbar probably out for the year? I need this answer fast lol

  • Boyfromoz

    Nice to see David Irving feature in the top performers given he has been on the team less than a week. Cowboys aggressively churning the roster and this was a great pickup.