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Minnesota Vikings: Keys to victory over New Orleans Saints in London

Minnesota Vikings
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

This Minnesota Vikings fan blog entry was originally posted at Purple Pain Forums by MidwinterViking.

Even three games in, we’re not sure who the real New Orleans Saints are.

  1. They played a bad Atlanta Falcons team, looked bad, and won.
  2. They played an allegedly good Tampa Bay Buccaneers team, looked good, and lost*.
  3. They played a questionable Carolina Panthers team and lost.

*This Bucs game is why many have a difficult time evaluating the Saints. Some don’t think the Bucs are a great team this year. Good but not great. Some feel they are as much reputation as quality. This matters a lot for evaluating the Saints because we don’t know if the Bucs are good or great. Add to that, the game swung significantly when Marshon Lattimore was ejected.

Evaluating the Minnesota Vikings’ next opponent, the Saints

So, are the Saints a good team that had a bump against the Panthers in a divisional game on the road? Or are they a bad team who is just a furious comeback vs a bad Falcons team away from being 0-3?

So the trend of the team is fuzzy. Here is a trend that is not fuzzy: their opponents’ No. 1 receiver matched up against Lattimore:

  • Drake London: 5 catches/ 74 yards/ 0 TDs
  • Mike Evans: 3 catches/61 yards/0 TDs
  • DJ Moore: 1 catch/2 yards

That Drake London performance stands out, a rookie in his first game had success against Lattimore? Or did he? An example from that game:

Here, Pitts is lined up in a wide receiver bunch, and Lattimore follows him down the seam. The Falcons were basically lining up and using Pitts as a WR. But let’s correct that list:

Drake London: 5 catches/74 yards/0 TDs
Kyle Pitts: 2 catches/19 yards/0 TDs
Mike Evans: 3 catches/61 yards/0 TDs
DJ Moore: 1 catch/2 yards

Related: NFL wide receiver rankings 2022: Free fall continues for Davante Adams, Jaylen Waddle enters elite conversation

New Orleans Saints’ keys to the game

NFL: New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Marshon Lattimore is the Saints’ most important player. The Saints’ offense isn’t elite, and Lattimore allows the defense to play an easier game, taking a receiver away. It will be interesting to see what kind of performance Justin Jefferson has to add to this list.

Key stat for the Saints, turnovers:

  • Vs Falcons: 1 (Win)
  • Vs Bucs: 5 (Loss)
  • Vs Panthers: 3 (Loss)

Turnovers are always key, but the question is how you get them. The Saints game vs the Bucs was the highlight here. Jameis Winston was managing the game, then things got intense with a fight, and the energy went way up. Winston responded by throwing three picks, punctuated by this gem of a pick-6:

This had no chance. Winston is the epitome of a try harder, not smarter guy, and the Vikings will need to take advantage of this.

Let’s go back to the quick and dirtiness of this game. Winston isn’t good at dirty, a scheme can beat him. This game may be dirtier than some because both teams will lose a full day traveling to London. That’s good for the Vikings because the key to the game is….

How to beat the Saints

Confuse Jameis Winston. Lattimore and the Saints’ defense can keep this game competitive, but they aren’t so elite that they can overcome giving the opponents extra possessions. The deep shell the Vikings have been playing may be an asset in this game as Winston often gets burned trying to go deep too aggressively. Even if Eric Kendricks and Harrison Smith are no longer the players they once were, this game should play to their strengths – if one of them can get into the right spot in coverage once or twice, cutting off a passing lane can be enough to swing a win. And they have both always had good hands to turn a pass deflected into a big play.

Related: Love the Vikings? Get involved in the discussion on the Purple Pain forums