Saints looking to ride the momentum of their first win
Sunday's 20-9 win over the Vikings was far from pretty, but any kind of victory looked glorious to the Saints as they desperately chased a win from the bottom of an 0-2 hole.
New Orleans came into the season with high expectations after a run to the conference semifinals last year and an offseason that saw the additions of Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd and explosive rookie receiver Brandin Cooks.
Those expectations quickly turned into bleak negativity after the Saints started the season off 0-2.
To make things worse, one of the losses was to conference foe Atlanta and another was to a Browns team that was playing with a makeshift receiving corps as No. 1 wideout Josh Gordon served a prolonged suspension.
In each defeat, the Saints' defense was unable to make key stops at the end of the game when New Orleans was clinging to a lead.
Things set up well for the Saints last week.
They were finally able to play in the friendly confines of the Superdome, and they got to play a Vikings team that was in the midst of drama and distractions with Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson being put on the exempt list following an indictment for child abuse.
New Orleans used the raucous home crowd to quickly jump all over Minnesota. They scored touchdowns on their first two offensive possessions and took a 13-0 lead.
It looked like the game was about to erupt into a blowout, but the Saint offense cooled down, and they didn't score again until early in the fourth quarter.
That score finally gave them some breathing room and unlike the first two games, the defense was able to step up and make stops.
The result was a much-needed victory that finally put them into the win column in 2014.
The defense played well--only giving up 13 first downs, 247 total yards and nine points, but the Vikings were shorthanded on offense.
They were without Peterson on the ground, and quarterback Matt Cassel went down with a foot injury.
Heralded rookie Teddy Bridgewater came in and played well--passing for 150 yards and adding 27 yards on the ground.
The Saint defensive line finally lived up to last year's production as they consistently pressured Bridgewater and sacked him twice.
Unlike the first two games, it was the offense that struggled.
The Saints rolled up 162 yards in their first two drives but only managed 234 yards for the rest of the game.
For the most part, the Vikings limited the big plays the Saints are so used to making at home.
Drew Brees was held under 300 yards despite completing 27 passes, and the rushing attack was held to 108 yards.
The offense will have to be much more potent this Sunday night as they make the trip to Dallas to play the Cowboys.
In last year's 49-17 drubbing of Dallas, the Saints rolled up a ridiculous 625 yards of total offense and an NFL-record 40 first downs.
Brees threw for 397 yards and four touchdowns while Mark Ingram ran for 145 yards. Ingram will be out for this game with a broken bone in his hand.
The Cowboy defense looks improved from last year when they were all-time bad, but they still rank just 21st against the pass and 23rd in total defense.
Dallas is on a hot streak right now--winning two straight games. This includes a 21-point comeback victory over the Rams last week.
In the last eight quarters, they've outscored their opponents by a combined margin of 68-41.
One of the biggest differences in their offense is the increased number of carries for running back DeMarco Murray. In their first three games, he is averaging 128 yards per contest.
Stopping the Dallas attack will start with him. They also have to get pressure on quarterback Tony Romo.
Romo has thrown four interceptions through three games, but the Saints have had trouble getting after opposing QBs. They only have four sacks--which ranks them 22nd in the league.
Another reason the Saint defense hasn't lived up to last year's resurgence is the lack the turnovers. Through three games, they have only come up with one takeaway.
They'll need to force more mistakes on Sunday if they want to derail an explosive Cowboy offense that averages 26 points a game.