NEW ORLEANS (AP)Pleased as Saints quarterback Derek Carr was about the best all-around game by far that New Orleans has played in his first season with the club, he wasn’t about to lose sight of the big picture.
The 34-0 triumph in New England came only one week after a bitterly disappointing loss at home in a division matchup game to Tampa Bay, and it came against a Patriots team that has been reeling lately.
“I’ve been in tough times, and when you do go out and have a good day, it’s always a relief,” Carr said after Sunday’s game. “It’s always, like, ‘All right, let’s at least get seven days answering nice questions about some things.’”
Time will tell if New Orleans’ dominant Week 5 performance is a turning point or just a brief respite. But it’s something to build on.
“It’s probably as complete a game as we’ve played around here in a while,” coach Dennis Allen said. “Our guys knew what we needed to do. I think they understood that the previous performance wasn’t good enough.”
After throwing for just two touchdowns in his first four games, Carr doubled his season total with scoring strikes to receiver Chris Olave and tight end Foster Moreau.
Alvin Kamara had 97 yards from scrimmage and rushed for his first TD this season. And the Saints possessed the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game (39:34) and did not turn the ball over.
It was a dramatic improvement for an offense whose recent struggles had brought a lot of scrutiny on coordinator Pete Carmichael.
“If you’re having struggles in an area, there’s very few times you can point in one individual direction and say, ‘That’s the issue,’” Allen said. ”So, the challenge this week was for everybody – players and coaches – to show up.”
Defensively, Tyrann Mathieu’s pick-6 against Patriots QB Mac Jones was the first of two interceptions by the defense to go with a fumble recovery.
Special teams performed well, too, giving up only 1 yard on punt returns, hitting both field-goal attempts and not allowing any significant kickoff returns.
“This is what I want our team to look like,” Allen said. “Now the challenge is, can you replicate that week in and week out.”
New Orleans’ pass defense has been among the best in the NFL through five games, ranking fourth in the league heading into Monday night’s action in fewest yards allowed per game (183). The Saints have seven interceptions, tied with Dallas for third, narrowly behind San Francisco and Buffalo, who each have eight.
“We’ve got a really good defense,” Mathieu said, and the numbers show it.
After their first shutout this season, the Saints are allowing 15.2 points per game, fourth fewest in the league.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
It’s hard to deem the offense fixed after just one good performance against a Patriots squad that lost 38-3 to Dallas in Week 4. Prior to Monday night’s game, the Saints still ranked 25th in the NFL in yards per game at 289 and 22nd in points per game at 19.2.
Defensive end Carl Granderson is starting to make the Saints’ decision to sign him to an extension look like a good one. His sack of Jones increased his team-leading total to 3 1/2. And his pressure on Jones led directly to Mathieu’s interception for a touchdown. Granderson now has eight QB hurries, which easily leads the club. Veteran end Cameron Jordan also had his best game so far with a sack and fumble recovery.
Meanwhile, rookie place kicker Blake Grupe hit two field goals from beyond 50 yards, making him 3 for 3 from that distance this season and 11 of 12 overall.
“He’s kicked the ball exceptionally well for us,” Allen said. “I’ve had zero reservations about having him attempt a long field goal.”
Rookie defensive end Isaiah Foskey could very well develop into an impact player on the defensive line. It’s still quite early in his career, but so far, the second-round pick out of Notre Dame hasn’t stood out. He’s still looking for his first sack, tackle for loss, QB hurry, or batted pass and hasn’t been involved in a takeaway.
Safety J.T. Gray hurt his hamstring while fullback Adam Prentice has a knee injury. Tight end Juwan Johnson is trying to return from a calf injury that has sidelined him for two weeks and safety Lonnie Johnson is nursing a hamstring injury that kept him out on Sunday.
73 – Kamara’s new franchise record for touchdowns. The 2017 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year reached that mark in his second game of his seventh NFL season.
Three straight games against AFC South opponents, starting this Sunday at Houston, followed by a Thursday night home date against Jacksonville on Oct. 19 and then a visit to Indianapolis on Oct. 29.
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