Saints' D rising: What we learned from Game Rewind


Another week of action is in the books, so let's get down to business, shall we?

Here's a fresh round of notes from another helping of Game Rewind and the glorious All-22:

New Orleans Saints 31, Arizona Cardinals 7

» Let's open in The Big Easy, where Cardinals bookend Levi Brown was manhandled by Bad Santa and his minions. Two weeks removed from a torching by Robert Quinn of the Rams, Brown was especially wooden Sunday against the Saints. He's far from trustworthy one-on-one against athletic edge rushers. He's caught napping here as Junior Galette sails by for a sack on Carson Palmer:

» Galette reaped the benefits of Arizona doubling Cameron Jordan, who has emerged as the NFL's best 3-4 defensive end behind J.J. Watt. Another lineman who popped off the screen was Tyrunn Walker. The second-year end didn't record a sack, but he toyed with Arizona's O-line during his 21 snaps. Palmer won't forget him:

New York Jets 27, Buffalo Bills 20

» EJ Manuel has faced a pair of quality defenses in New England and Carolina, but Gang Green gave him the most trouble yet. Challenging the rookie to win with his arm, the Jets put their energy into bottling up running back C.J. Spiller. And it worked. Spiller came into Sunday's game with a tweaked knee and left with a banged-up thigh. His explosiveness was missing. Spiller watched the same tape we saw and called it "one of those games where I could have got like, one or two yards." Not on this play:

» Geno Smith's 331 yards were more than Mark Sanchez threw for in 28 straight starts. And for the first time in many moons, New York's receivers did not suck. Stephen Hill woke up from a career-long slumber, and Santonio Holmes -- thawed from carbonite -- made plays and even did that annoying airplane thing:

Cleveland Browns 31, Minnesota Vikings 27

» Nobody's made a bigger impact in Cleveland than defensive tackle Desmond Bryant. His best game didn't come against the Vikings, but Bryant's tape against the Ravens in Week 2 was outstanding. He's not alone. Fellow end John Hughes deserves more attention. At linebacker, Jabaal Sheard is Pro Football Focus' second-ranked 3-4 outside 'backer, and Paul Kruger and rookie Barkevious Mingo also rank in its top 20. Cleveland also has PFF's third-ranked inside linebacker in D'Qwell Jackson, and we'd argue Craig Robertson is equally dynamic. The Browns have one of the league's better front sevens after three weeks of play.

» Minnesota corner Marcus Sherels played well in place of the benched A.J. Jefferson. Sherels showed well as a tackler and forced incompletions on nine of the 18 passes floated his way.

» What were the Vikings thinking on this fake field goal by the Browns? Nobody's within a country mile of tight end Jordan Cameron:

Dallas Cowboys 31, St. Louis Rams 7

» After being flattened, juked and fried by Dontari Poe in Week 2, Cowboys rookie center Travis Frederick had his best game against the Rams, blasting holes for DeMarco Murray up the gut of the St. Louis D. This interior line kept Tony Romo upright -- he was sacked once and hit just once -- and plowed wide-open prairies for Murray to roam. They'll win the decrepit NFC East if Frederick & Co. can do this consistently.

» Tavon Austin has been Schottenheimered. Against the Cowboys, none of his six catches went for more than nine yards. This coaching staff can't seem to get him alone in space downfield.

After seeing how Andy Reid schemed to free up far lesser talent Donnie Avery against the Eagles, it's on the Rams to lean on passing concepts that allow Austin's natural gifts to take over. Against Dallas, there was too much of this:

Detroit Lions 27, Washington Redskins 20

» In limited doses, Joique Bell is a solid option behind Reggie Bush. He's valuable in the passing game and causes headaches for defenders as a runner. Watch him shed Redskins tacklers on this first-quarter touchdown burst:

Carolina Panthers 38, New York Giants 0

» Defenses are catching up to the read option. Kevin Patra pointed out how Jason Pierre-Paul plays both the running back and quarterback perfectly on the play below. To counter, the Panthers executed a beautiful triple-option pitch. It's a play we might see more from read-option teams as the season progresses:

» Carolina leaned liberally on read-option concepts against the Giants, leading me to draw two possible conclusions: (1) The Panthers were so desperate for a win that they willingly scrapped their plans to turn Newton into a pocket passer for one week, or (2) they've ditched those plans for good because Newton, for better or worse, is what he is. And they know it.

The Panthers won Sunday, but only after deep-sixing the offense they spent all offseason implementing. I can't help but wonder if that's a long-term concern for this front office.

New England Patriots 23, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3

» Tom Brady is a shoo-in first-ballot Hall of Famer, but his play against the Bucs offered some uncharacteristic moments. On the clip below, he zeroes in on tight end Zach Sudfeld, pushing the ball into double coverage. The All-22 shows that Kenbrell Thompkins and Julian Edelman were wide open on the play. A rare ill decision that gave the ball back to Tampa and cost New England points:

Tennessee Titans 20, San Diego Chargers 17

» Another solid game by Philip Rivers landed him at No. 3 on Gregg Rosenthal's "The QB Index."

» I can appreciate why the Titans are wed to a run-heavy attack. When it's humming, Tennessee can pound opponents. Against the Chargers, quarterback Jake Locker showed off his legs with a pair of first-down runs on the team's opening drive. He's an erratic passer -- and not a long-term answer at the position -- but Locker can gallop:

» Kenny Britt was targeted five times and caught none of them. He was responsible for two ugly drops and flagged for an illegal block that wiped out a 25-yard reception by Kendall Wright. Wright and Justin Hunter are the future in Tennessee. The Titans and Britt won't be together for long.

» Hate to end on a sour note, but Dwight Freeney looked 93 years old to me against the Titans. He's still an asset rushing the passer, but Freeney appeared uncomfortable dropping into pass coverage. That's understandable after spending his entire career darting forward, but there's no excuse for his shoddy effort against the run. He goes into a coma on this play:

Special thanks to the multitalented Jonathan Smyth of NFL Films for cutting the All-22. If you'd like us to focus on something specific in Week 4, hit me up on Twitter at @MarcSesslerNFL.

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