1:05 p.m. ET
52 degrees, partly cloudy and breezy
Key Decision #1: (NO ball, tied 0-0 / fourth-and-1, BAL 4 / 5:02 Q1)
• The Saints’ opening drive of the game was impressive, as they held the ball for 10 minutes and went from their own 25 to the Ravens’ 4-yard line. Along the way, they converted three fourth-down plays, including a successful fake punt deep in their own territory.
• On fourth-and-1, NO head coach Sean Payton decided to gamble again, passing up the chip=shot field goal. Backup QB Taysom Hill comes in to run an option play. He makes a bad pitch to RB Alvin Kamara, who fumbles.
• Even though NO went on to win the game, we didn’t like this call. The Saints typically struggle on the road, and they were playing a very tough defensive team. Points would be at a premium; this wasn’t the time to gamble.
Key Decision #2: (NO ball, tied 0-0 / opening drive / Q1)
• On the Saints’ opening drive of the game, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh used two challenges. He won the first, a spot challenge that forced a fourth down (the Saints went for it and converted); the lost the second, in which the ruling that Kamara was down by contact before fumbling was upheld.
• Later in the game, with the Ravens leading 17-14, the Saints converted a fourth-and-1 with a Drew Brees QB sneak that might have been challenged — but Harbaugh had already expended his challenges far too early in the game.
• For some reason, Harbaugh was treating the Saints’ opening drive as if it were a fourth-quarter game-deciding drive when it came to his challenges.
Key Decision #3: (NO ball, leading 21-17 / first-and-10, NO 36 / 3:19 Q4)
• After stopping the ravens on fourth-and-6, the Saints take over on downs with a chance to take time off the clock.
• Instead, Payton makes an aggressive play call on a downfield throw to undrafted rookie TE (and converted WR) Dan Arnold for a big gain that led to a FG and a 7-point lead.
• This was a big game for both teams, but still only a first half of the season game. Nevertheless, both Payton and Harbaugh coached as if it were the Super Bowl; we saw four fourth-down attempts and two challenges on the first drive of the game. It certainly was unusual.
• Sean Payton is doing a terrific job utilizing his entire roster; backup QB Taysom Hill is used on offense and special teams, and Payton is unafraid to pull Brees in critical situations in order to let Hill handle the ball. WR Tre’Quan Smith is developing nicely as well, and rookie TE Dan Arnold is getting the call in tight situations.
• BAL executed a perfect game-tying TD drive, and would have tied the game had K Justin Tucker converted the extra point. QB Joe Flacco appears to look frequently for WR Willie Snead in tight situations, and this drive exposed some poor judgment calls by Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. The Saints largely played well on defense, however.
• The Saints did a good job of adjusting their play calls and started throwing more slants. The Ravens have an excellent defense, particularly vs. lateral plays.
• We expect both of these teams to contend well in the playoffs.