NFC South Review: Saints’ Defense Establishes Team’s Identity

When the New Orleans Saints needed a big play, they could lean on their defense to eke out a narrow victory over the Tennessee Titans. It was a big boost of confidence for the Saints, who had a difficult season last year adjusting to life post-Sean Payton. There were many bright spots for the NFC South Division during Week 1.

In a season where not much will be expected of several of the teams, there were plenty of positive moments. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ win over Minnesota may have been the top upset of the NFL’s opening weekend.

The Atlanta Falcons won despite having some issues on offense by tripping up the Carolina Panthers. While there will be plenty of challenges ahead for the young teams as they try to build themselves into contenders, this was a strong start for what was considered weaker. It should be a fun race for the NFC South crown.

 

Team Result
Atlanta Falcons W, 24-10 vs. Carolina 
Carolina Panthers L, 24-10 at Atlanta 
New Orleans Saints W, 16-15 vs. Tennessee Titans
Tampa Bay Buccaneers W, 20-17 at Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans’ Defense Smothers Tennessee

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New Orleans Saints

The Saints may have accelerated Ryan Tannehill’s final days as the Tennessee Titans’ starting quarterback. New Orlean’s secondary had Tannehill flustered and pulled down three interceptions to help keep control of the game. The Saints also were able to record three sacks.

New Orleans was also strong against the run. The Saints limited Titans star running back Derrick Henry to 63 yards on 15 carries. Marcus Maye, Marshon Lattimore, and Paulson Adebo all intercepted passes for the Saints. Carl Granderson led New Orleans’ pass rusher by recording 1.5 sacks.

 

Baker Makes Strong First Impression

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Baker Mayfield

Baker Mayfield didn’t take long to run people the wrong way after being drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Browns in 2018. Mayfield made it five years in Cleveland before being pushed out the door despite showing some flashes of potential. Following Tom Brady’s retirement, the Buccaneers brought Mayfield in to give them a solid veteran presence.

Mayfield’s first start with Tampa Bay was an efficient game. He passed for 173 yards against Minnesota and only averaged 5.1 yards per completion. Mayfield did throw two necessary touchdown passes to help the Buccaneers finish a surprising road win. If he can keep this kind of form up Tampa Bay could challenge for the NFC South Championship. 

 

Desmond Ridder Still Needs Some Work

 

The Atlanta Falcons grabbed a two-touchdown win to start the season. Second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder still needs some time to adjust to life in the NFL. He completed 15 of his 18 attempts against the Panthers but didn’t make many big plays. 

Ridder’s longest completion was a 34-yard strike to tight end Kyle Pitts. Pitts led the team in receiving with 44 yards on two catches. Ridders only finished with 115 passing yards and threw one touchdown pass to rookie running back Bijan Robinson. 

Ridder said his primary focus moving forward is to help the offensive develop a quicker tempo. What caused Ridder to struggle was trying to take on too much responsibility to make plays instead of sticking with the designed reads.

 

Carolina Sees No. 1 Pick Struggle in Debut

 

Alabama product Bryce Young would never be in for a solid first start in his debut. The Panthers’ first-year quarterback had his size questioned all off-season and was doubted if he could compete with his height and weight. Young passed for 146 yards and threw a touchdown in his debut.

Carolina also saw Young throw two interceptions and was sacked two times. What Carolina can be encouraged by is that its running game should be able to take pressure off Young while the Panthers learn how to win. Miles Sanders, who came over to Carolina after helping lead Philadelphia to the Super Bowl last season, leads the team with 72 yards on 18 carries. Chubba Hubbard also had 60 rushing yards on nine carries.

 

Carr’s Veteran Presence Helps New Orleans Out

 

When it comes to solid offseason moves, New Orleans bringing in veteran quarterback Derek Carr may end up being at the top of the list. Carr was solid in the Saints’ opener against Tennessee. He passed for 305 yards and threw a touchdown pass.

Carr has a good working relationship with wide receiver Chris Olave. Olave pulled in a team-high eight passes for 112 yards. Rashid Shaheed was second on the team by pulling in five passings for 89 yards and a touchdown.

 

Evans Buccaneers Likely to Part Ways After the Season

 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Mike Evans had a Sept. 9 deadline for a new contract to be reached. The Buccaneers and Evans have been far apart on a number for a while. Despite the tension, Evans has agreed to play out the rest of the season to try and help the Buccaneers reclaim the NFC South crown.

Evans didn’t let his issues with the team impact his play. During Week 1, Evans caught six passes for 66 yards and a touchdown. Evans’ longest catch against the Vikings was 28 yards.

 

Tyler Allgeier Impresses for Atlanta

 

When the Falcons drafted Robinson in the first round, people had big plans for the Texas running back. Last season, Allgeier only scored three touchdowns during the entire season and finished with just over 1,000 rushing yards. During Week 1, Allgeier showed he will aggressively seek opportunities to keep his spot on the field.

Against Carolina, Allgeier piled up a team-high 75 yards on 15 carries. He also scored two touchdowns in the Falcons’ opener. 

 

Buccaneers Hope to See Rushing Game Improve

 

Tampa Bay did need help to move the ball against Minnesota on the ground. The Buccaneers averaged less than three yards per game. Rachaad White led the Buccaneers with 39 yards on 17 carries. White is in his second season with Tampa Bay. He rushed for 481 yards on 129 carries and scored a touchdown.