It’s time for Dennis Allen to put his name on it. Now is the time. It’s Monday night. The Ravens are in town. Lamar Jackson is at quarterback, a few years removed from his MVP season. Get the W, and the Saints are off and running. The season will possibly be set right with Allen’s first signature win. Lose, and the Saints will be 3-6. And who knows what the season turns out to be.
On paper, this is a mismatch. Not because the Ravens are 5-3 and the Saints are 3-5. It’s because the Ravens are rolling into town with the Saints’ kryptonite laced all over their playbook. That kryptonite is not some secret Sean Payton has divulged. Instead, it’s the read option offense.
The read option is the play action of the run game. It goes like this: the QB appears to hand the ball off as if it’s a typical running play. But at the last second, he has the option of keeping it and running himself based on how he reads the linebackers and defensive ends. The play causes the lineman and linebackers to hesitate because they can’t tell who has the ball. Teams with speedy linebackers and an agile defensive line tend to adapt better. The Saints don’t have that. So you can guess what happens.
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Dennis Allen’s defense has faced read option offenses 3 times recently. And each time it hasn’t been pretty. The past 2 seasons Jalen Hurts and the Eagles have run all over the Saints’ D for 246 and 242 yards. Both times, the Eagles cruised to easy wins. In the first game of this season, Marcus Mariota and the Falcons ran for 201 yards. The Falcons were also cruising to an easy win until the Saints’ offense caught fire in the 4th quarter.
Now, here come the Ravens with Captain Read Option, Lamar Jackson. He is the most mobile quarterback in the league. Jackson already has 553 yards rushing this season. That’s 141 more yards than Alvin Kamara. As a team, the Ravens are 2nd in the league with 165 yards rushing a game.
Can Saints D Stop Ravens
But hold onto your Who Dats, there’s hope. Overall, the Saints rank 14th in run defense, giving up 112 yards a game. But in the past 3 games, they’ve only given up 83. None of the past 3 have been against read option offenses, but it’s a sign that the defense is starting to play better against the run.
Also, the Saints came back against the Falcons partly because they were able to slow the Falcons read option down a bit in the 4th quarter. So maybe the 4th time will be a charm? We’ll see.
Other fun facts to consider:
The Ravens are 5th in the league in run defense. They’re only giving up 97 yards a game. The Saints are averaging 141 yards, 8th in the league.
The Ravens rank 5th in sacks. They have 23 this season. Andy Dalton has only been sacked 4 times, none in the past 2 games.
The Ravens have blown 2 double digit leads in the 4th quarter, and 3 double digit leads overall. The Saints have had one 4th quarter comeback all season. And that was their only comeback this season.
The Ravens have won 3 of the last 4 against the Saints, including 2 in a row in the Dome. The Saints won the last time they played.
So who’ll win this game? Who knows. The Saints could give up another 200 + yards rushing and win a wild shootout. They could pick up where they left off against the Raiders and dominate. Or they could lose a close one or get blown out. It’s hard to tell with this team.
Overall, the Ravens are the better team. But it’s the only home prime time game of the season. Expect the Saints to lean hard on the crowd. Can Saints D Stop Ravens? We will see how it goes.