Saints Drive Analysis: Week 1

Each Week Saintsinsider.com will break down a key drive from the New Orleans Saints' most recent game. The Drive breaks down every play of a drive, analyzes its importance in the game and why that drive mattered to a Saints victory or defeat. In this week's debut, Matthew Postins breaks down a key third-quarter drive that led to a 1-0 record.

THE DRIVE: The Saints, down 10-7, started from their own 29-yard line with 8:13 left in the third quarter.

PLAY 1: RB Reggie Bush went off the left tackle for a 26-yard gain into Buccaneers territory. But a facemask penalty, called on Bush, brought the play back to the Saints 40.

ANALYSIS: That ended up being Bush's longest rush of the day, as he finished with 14 carries for 51 yards (a 3.6-yard average). That doesn't tell the whole story of his impact on Sunday's win, though, as Bush also caught 8 passes for 112 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Bush and other NFL backs must remember that offensive facemask is being called this year and they'll have to watch their stiff-arms. All facemask penalties are 15 yards now, as well.

PLAY 2: On 1st-and-10 from the Saints 40, QB Drew Brees connected with TE Jeremy Shockey for a 26-yard gain to the Bucs 34.

ANALYSIS: That's exactly the kind of impact the Saints had hoped for when they traded for Shockey. He had 6 catches for 54 yards, but that was the big one as he split the middle of the Bucs defense. The Saints have never had a weapon like Shockey at tight end and resting him during the preseason seemed, at least on Sunday, to be worth it.

PLAYS 3 AND 4: On 1st-and-10 from the Bucs 34 Bush is stopped for no gain and a gain of one yard, both times by Bucs LB Derrick Brooks.

ANALYSIS: These were the last two tackles Brooks made on Sunday, as he left the game with a hamstring pull. Bush had five more carries after that and gained less than 10 yards.

PLAY 5: Brees and Shockey connected again, this time for 10 yards and a first down at the Bucs 23.

ANALYSIS: Third down was a big factor in Sunday's game. The Saints were 5-of-13 on third down for the game, which wasn't great, but was certainly better than Tampa Bay's 2-of-12. But the biggest third-down conversion came in the fourth quarter when Brees hit Bush for a 42-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-5 from the Bucs 42. In fact, the Saints were 2-of-4 on third down from this drive forward. The other conversion was the Saints' game-winning score.

PLAY 6: Brees connected with WR Marques Colston for a 5-yard gain on first down from the Bucs 23.

ANALYSIS: Colston caught three passes for 26 yards as the Bucs made a concerted effort to slow him down. No matter. The Saints took advantage of their vast array of weapons and Devery Henderson (84-yard TD reception) and David Patten (34-yard TD reception) picked up the slack. Those were their only receptions of the game.

PLAY 7: RB Pierre Thomas runs over left guard for 6 yards and a first down to the Bucs 12.

ANALYSIS: With Deuce McAllister dressed but not playing, Thomas became Bush's complimentary back. And he didn't disappoint. Thomas rushed 10 times for 52 yards for a robust 5.2-yard average. He broke an 18-yard run during the game. The Saints needed Thomas to come through. Along with McAllister, Aaron Stecker was inactive. The Saints had just two running backs on Sunday. Thomas' contribution was key.

PLAY 9: (After a Brees incompletion) Brees is sacked by Bucs DE Greg White for a 6-yard loss.

ANALYSIS: Brees had solid protection all day, and when you look at his numbers — 23-of-32 for 343 yards and three touchdowns — that's easy to see. White's sack of Brees was the only Bucs sack of the day. They were, however, credited with six quarterback hurries. But Brees handled the pressure well all day.

PLAY 11: (After a 2-yard Brees-to-Bush completion) Martin Gramatica kicked a 34-yard field goal with 2:54 left.

ANALYSIS: The field goal might not have seemed important at the time, but the kick tied the game at 10-10 and ended a long scoring drought for the Saints, who struggled to generate offense after scoring on the game's first drive. From there, the Saints scored touchdowns on their next two possessions, taking a 24-20 lead that their defense was able to protect. The drive could have ended twice, but the fact that the Saints kept it going and at least got something positive out of it kick-started their rally later in the game.

Matthew Postins is the editor and publisher of saintsinsider.com. He can be heard every Friday between 3-4 p.m. on WNSP Sports Radio 105.5 FM in Mobile, Ala.


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